Popular Beauty Practice Linked to Increased Risk of Uterine Cancer, Breast Cancer
There are a growing number of new cases involving the use of hair straightening products and hair relaxer products, as new recent research points to a higher incidence of health problems for the women who use them. Multiple studies, including those run by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, have determined that the use of chemical hair products can result in increased risk of uterine cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, endometriosis and uterine fibroids.
Researchers say the culprit is a spate of endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in these hair relaxer and hair straightening products. African American women, who make up a large portion of product customers, have been disproportionately affected by these products.
If you or a loved one have received a cancer diagnosis following the use of chemical hair products, it’s time to explore your rights under the law. Contact The Rothenberg Law Firm today for a free consultation to determine your rights.
With decades of experience handling personal injury and product liability lawsuits, The Rothenberg Law Firm has more than 50 years’ experience winning billions of dollars for our clients. We are known for our tenacity, resourcefulness and legal experience in both negotiating settlements and successfully closing cases against large corporations and insurance companies to make our plaintiffs whole.
The legal team at The Rothenberg Law Firm has compiled the following crucial details to help you better understand the background and merits of chemical hair relaxer cancer lawsuits and chemical hair straightener lawsuits.
Important Studies Showing Increased Risk of Uterine Cancers and Breast Cancers Due to the Use of Chemical Hair Products
How common is the use of chemical hair relaxer products? More than 10 million Americans reported using them in 2022. And though some are predicting a decline in the use of hair relaxers, for many the damage appears to have already been done.
The Sister Study
Conducted by NIH, the Sister Study followed nearly 34,000 women ages 35-74 and found a significantly higher incidence rate of uterine cancer among those who reported frequent use of chemical hair relaxer products and hair straightening products during the prior year.
After analyzing these findings, the study’s authors contended that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) “could contribute to uterine cancer risk because of their ability to alter hormonal actions.” They pointed to previous epidemiologic research showing a link between EDCs, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
In a statement on the findings, lead author Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group, said that, “We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%.”
She continued, “This doubling rate is concerning.”
The findings are even more shocking when considering that uterine cancer is currently the most prevalent cancer of the female reproductive system — there were an estimated 66,000 new cases in 2022. Studies show that incidence rates of uterine cancer have been rising in the United States, particularly among Black women.
Potential Increased Risk of Cancer For Black Women
Approximately 60% of the participants who reported using straighteners in the previous year were self-identified Black women, according to the study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers said they may be at higher risk for adverse health effects due to higher prevalence of use.
Che-Jung Chang, Ph.D., another author on the new study, elaborated that, “Because Black women use hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and tend to initiate use at earlier ages than other races and ethnicities, these findings may be even more relevant for them.”
In fact, a 2022 study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology found that:
“African-American women and children are more likely than their White counterparts to use hair products that are advertised to moisturize hair (e.g., hair lotions, conditioners), promote hair growth (e.g., root stimulators, hair food), and chemically straighten or relax naturally curly hair (e.g., hair relaxers). Historically, these hair products have been used by many African-Americans to attain cultural norms and standards of beauty that favored long, straight hair.”
Research Showing Connections Between Chemical Hair Relaxer Products and Breast Cancer
Another research study has found a higher risk of breast cancer associated with the use of hair relaxers, also resulting from EDCs.
Published in the International Journal of Cancer, the national study followed over 46,000 women aged 35-74. Researchers said they observed “a higher breast cancer risk associated with any straightener use and personal use of permanent dye, especially among black women. These results suggest that chemicals in hair products may play a role in breast carcinogenesis.”
Chemical Hair Relaxer Products Were Found to Contain Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals – But What Are They?
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are substances that alter the normal functioning of the body’s hormonal system. They can be found in the environment, food, and manufactured products. They are also found in personal care items like hair relaxers and chemical hair straightening products.
Because EDCs are so common, exposure can come via the air we breathe, and the food and water we consume; they can also enter the body through skin contact.
A concerning EDC commonly found in chemical hair relaxer products and chemical hair straightening products are phthalates. The EPA recently announced it will add certain classes of phthalates found in these hair care products to its list of toxic chemicals and subject them to Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements.
The announcement follows years of research into the connection between phthalates and breast cancer. In one such report published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, scientists examined this association, citing the prevalence of breast cancer as the second-leading cause of cancer-related death amongst American women. After studying nearly 8000 breast cancer cases, researchers determined that the “phthalate metabolites MBzP and MiBP were passively associated with breast cancer.”
But phthalates are not the only problematic EDCs found in hair relaxing and straightening products. Other endocrine disruptors commonly found in these hair care products include: Diethanolamine, Cyclosiloxanes, sodium hydroxide and parabens.
Aside from EDCs, chemical hair straightening products and hair relaxers contain a host of chemicals that pose serious health issues. For example, they also contain the highly carcinogenic chemical- formaldehyde. A common ingredient in keratin and Brazilian straightening treatments, it is found in formulas applied to the hair and then heated.
According to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), short-term risks of formaldehyde inhalation include ocular and respiratory effects, while long-term exposure increases cancer risk. The DTSC followed up by saying that salon workers are another seriously at-risk cohort, because they face an increased risk of cancer from routine long-term exposure.
The Evidence is Mounting: Hair Relaxer Products and Hair Straightening Products are Being Linked to Cancer Cases
Hair relaxer uterine cancer cases are on the rise, but so too are cases citing a link to breast cancer, endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer. If you or a loved one have used hair relaxer products and recently received a cancer diagnosis, reach out to The Rothenberg Law Firm for a free consultation.
Our personal injury lawyers are a team of experienced and successful professionals with more than 50 years’ experience handling personal injury, mass tort and product liability cases. A stalwart commitment to our clients drives all our decision-making. In sensitive cases like these, centered around the dreadful and life-changing impacts of cancer, we fight with vehemence to ensure our clients achieve maximum compensation possible under the law.
Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Endometriosis
In addition to being known carcinogens, the ability of EDCs to alter hormone levels has been associated with reproductive disorders like endometriosis. According to the NIH, patients diagnosed with endometriosis may harbor an increased risk for developing endometrial cancer in their later life. The disorder can also result in infertility or the need for a hysterectomy.
One large-scale population-based study of women enrolled in a Pacific Northwest healthcare system looked at their concentrations of phthalate metabolites, finding a strong association between this concentration and endometriosis risk. Researchers concluded that “phthalates may alter the risk of a hormonally-mediated disease among reproductive-age women.”
Phthalates were also specifically cited in a Multi-Center study as being associated with higher odds of an endometriosis diagnosis for women. To reach its conclusion, scientists looked at 500 women undergoing laparoscopy across 14 clinical centers.
The Use of Hair Relaxers: What Do They Actually Do To Your Hair?
Chemical hair relaxers and hair straighteners typically come in a creamy solution with a high PH. This solution breaks down the disulfide bonds found in your hair’s cortex layer, essentially damaging keratin hair proteins and flattening the hair.
Disulfide bonds are considered the hair’s most important bonds, because they are responsible for its natural structure. When application of this potent chemical formula is followed by heat, it creates a chemical reaction that loosens up curls. To maintain the appearance of smooth, flat hair, a retouching is typically needed every 4-8 weeks, meaning regular users of hair relaxer products and hair straightening products can find themselves exposed to carcinogenic compounds almost monthly.
Even the International Journal of Cosmetic Science says chemical hair relaxer products and treatments “affects the chemical structure of keratin and of the hair fiber, bringing up some safety concerns. Moreover, the development of hair is a dynamic and cyclic process, where the duration of growth cycles depends not only on where hair grows, but also on issues such as the individual’s age, dietary habits and hormonal factors.”
What Kicked Off The Hair Relaxer Cancer Lawsuits
The first uterine cancer lawsuit filed in federal court against manufacturers of hair straightening and hair relaxer products came in October 2022 with the Jenny Mitchell case. She filed in the Northern District of Illinois against the following companies: L’Oréal USA, Inc, L’Oréal USA Products, Inc. Strength of Nature Global, LLC, Soft Sheen/Carson Inc., Soft Sheen Carson (W.I.), Inc., Dabur International Ltd., Dabur USA Inc., and [Soft & Beautiful manufacturer] Namaste Laboratories, LLC. Mitchelle alleged that her diagnosis of uterine cancer “was directly and proximately caused by her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals found in Defendants’ hair care products.”
Specifically, Mitchell brought the action against these Defendants citing their “negligent, willful, and wrongful conduct in connection with the design, development, manufacture, testing, packaging, promoting, marketing, distribution, labeling, and/or sale of the products.” L’Oréal manufactures the well-known chemical hair straightening product Dark & Lovely.
Time is of the essence when pursuing claims against such major corporations. In a recent development showing the need for speed, beauty care conglomerate and manufacturer of chemical relaxers Revlon filed for bankruptcy protection. A judge gave any potential plaintiffs just 30 days to file a claim.
What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself
An influx of chemical hair straightener lawsuits are expected to be filed in the coming months. Some have forecasted that up to several hundred cases per month will be filed over the coming year. You will need a tried and true legal team to represent you to ensure you are adequately represented. The Rothenberg Law Firm has successfully represented plaintiffs for over 50 years, winning and collecting billions of dollars for our clients.
If you or a family member has endured breast, uterine, ovarian, or other cancers of the female reproductive system following hair relaxers or hair straightening products, contact us today for a free case evaluation from The Rothenberg Law Firm LLP.