Find out about the new research surrounding the dangers of commercial hair relaxers and their connection to cancer.
Hair Relaxers Linked to Cancer
Hair relaxers are a popular product used nationwide, predominately by African American women. Manufacturers knowingly used dangerous chemicals to create these relaxers, and studies throughout the decades have charted the injuries associated with long-term use. Victims who develop cancer through hair relaxers can hold manufacturers accountable and may qualify for legal compensation.
History of Hair Relaxers
Hair relaxers have been used since the early 1900s. It wasn’t until 1965 that permanent straighteners were introduced, eliminating the need for temporary pomade used for the past decades. Relaxers would continue to be developed until they established a sizeable market share in the industry.
Only recently have studies of their long-term effects been published for the general public to see. Cancers of the uterus and ovaries have been associated with prolonged use of hair relaxers. Victims or their families can take legal action and hold manufacturers accountable for their negligence and failure to warn consumers about these dangerous health effects.
Studies Through the Years
The medical journal Carcinogenesis found evidence suggesting a relationship between hair relaxers and breast cancer in June 2017. These findings were strengthened by the International Journal of Cancer (IJC) published its study in December 2019. They studied 50,884 women from 2003 to 2009 and found a 30% higher risk of developing cancer in those who frequently used hair relaxers.
Another investigation by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS) followed 33,497 women for 11 years. In that period, 378 cases of uterine cancer were reported by women who frequently used hair relaxers four times or more. Their discoveries were published in October 2022.
However, the longest and largest of these studies comes from Boston University’s Black Women’s Health Study, which conducted a 25-year experiment with 59,000 black women. Those who used lye-based hair relaxers a minimum of seven times a year were 30% more likely to develop cancer compared to more infrequent users.
There are multiple cancers associated with hair relaxers, chief among them are:
- Endometrial Cancer
- Uterine Cancer
- Various Ovarian Cancers
Of the known ovarian cancers, there are:
- Serous Ovarian Cancer
- Endometrioid Ovarian Cancer
- Mucinous Ovarian
- Clear Cell Ovarian Cancer
- Undifferentiated Ovarian
The chemicals found in hair straighteners and relaxers can cause cancer to develop. Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is a chemical found in bleach, aluminum, and public water treatment plants. Bisphenol A is used for manufacturing plastic found in compact disks, beverage containers, and vehicle parts. Formaldehyde is classified as a known carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and can be released into the air during the straightening process through heat.
These chemicals are classified as endocrine disruptors. This means they disrupt hormone production for the body’s developmental, reproductive, immunity, and neurological centers. Even small doses of these disruptors can have adverse health effects on the body. They remain highly hazardous to the environment, and what continued and routine exposure can cause is still unknown.
Products Involved in the Lawsuit
Lawsuits are being filed against prominent hair relaxer manufacturers and their products. Among those under investigation are:
- Dark & Lovely
- Just for Me Hair Relaxer
- Motions Hair Relaxer
- Optimum Care Relaxer
- ORS Olive Oil (Organic Root Stimulator)
- Soft & Beautiful
- TCB Natural
Victims who know which products they use or have used can file a claim to hold corporations accountable for neglecting to inform them about the various health issues their products pose.
What GLN Can Do For You
There are thousands of victims across the country seeking legal aid for their fight against corporate negligence. The Guardian Legal Network can connect you with a defective product attorney ready to take your case and fight for you. We connect qualified claimants to experienced legal experts passionate about their clients’ struggles.
- ACS Medical Content and News Staff. “Study Finds Possible Link Between Hair Straightening Chemicals and Uterine Cancer.” American Cancer Society, October 26, 2022. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/study-finds-possible-link-between-hair-straightening-chemicals-and-uterine-cancer.html#:~:text=Women%20who%20use%20chemical%20hair,of%20the%20National%20Cancer%20Institute.
- Bertrand, Kimberly. “25-Year-Long Study of Black Women Links Frequent Use of Lye-Based Hair Relaxers to a Higher Risk of Breast Cancer.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, July 14, 2021. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/25-year-long-study-of-black-women-links-frequent-use-of-lye-based-hair-relaxers-to-a-higher-risk-of-breast-cancer.
- “Bisphenol A (BPA) Factsheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 7, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/BisphenolA_FactSheet.html.
- Eberle, Carolyn E., Dale P. Sandler, Kyla W. Taylor, and Alexandra J. White. “Hair Dye and Chemical Straightener Use and Breast Cancer Risk in a Large US Population of Black and White Women.” Wiley Online Library. International Journal of Cancer, December 3, 2019. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.32738.
- “Endocrine Disruptors.” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, August 18, 2022. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm.
- “Formaldehyde in Hair Smoothing Products: What You Should Know.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, February 3, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/formaldehyde-hair-smoothing-products-what-you-should-know.
- Llanos, Adana AM, Anna Rabkin, Elisa V Bandera, Gary Zirpoli, Brian D Gonzalez, Cathleen Y Xing, Bo Qin, et al. “Hair Product Use and Breast Cancer Risk among African American and White Women.” Oxford Academic. Carcinogenesis, June 9, 2017. https://academic.oup.com/carcin/article/38/9/883/3866007?login=false.
- Mackar, Robin. “Hair Straightening Chemicals Associated with Higher Uterine Cancer Risk.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 17, 2022. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/hair-straightening-chemicals-associated-higher-uterine-cancer-risk.
- “Sodium Hydroxide.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 6, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/sodium-hydroxide/.