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The Link Between Chemical Hair Straighteners and Health Problems: Understanding the Science

08/31/2023
Mass Torts
BY

Hair straightening products have recently been linked to health problems, including uterine cancer. While this is a startling development, it also appears to have been an issue that companies like L’Oréal and Revlon could—and should—have discovered (and perhaps did discover) long ago.  

In October 2022, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released the results of a study that found that using chemical hair straighteners more than doubled women’s risk of developing uterine cancer by age 70. Uterine cancer is the most common type of cancer in the female reproductive system, and according to the study’s author, “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%.”

Notably, the NIH also reports that the study’s findings are “consistent with prior studies showing straighteners can increase the risk of hormone-related cancers in women.”

Understanding the Scientific Link Between Chemical Hair Straighteners and Uterine Cancer

What accounts for this increased risk of developing uterine cancer? The study’s authors point to a couple of key factors. The first is that many hair straightening products contain chemicals that can cause an increased risk of cancer in the event of exposure. This includes chemicals such as:

  • Bisphenol A
  • Formaldehyde
  • Parabens

Second, while these chemicals are used as ingredients in various other personal care products as well, the way and location in which hair straighteners are used may increase the risk of absorption—and thus the risk of cancer. In an article discussing the study, the NIH Record writes that “Chemical exposure from hair product use, especially straighteners, could be more concerning than other personal care products due to increased absorption through the scalp, which may be exacerbated by burns and lesions caused by straighteners.”

Importantly, however, as the American Cancer Society writes, “[t]he researchers did not find links between uterine cancer and the use of other hair products, including hair dyes, highlights, and perms.” As a result, at least for now, it appears that the uterine cancer risk associated with hair care products is limited specifically to chemical hair straighteners with ingredients such as those listed above.

This Isn’t the First Time Researchers Have Studied the Link Between Hair Products and Cancer

While the final results of NIEHS’s study have shone a spotlight on the link between chemical hair straighteners and uterine cancer, it isn’t the first time researchers have examined the link between hair products and cancer. As the American Cancer Society also explains, data collected earlier in the study period was used to look at possible links between hair products and various types of cancers, including specific cancers linked to hormones—such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Based on this research, scientists raised concerns about “possible links between some hair products and these cancers because some of the chemicals used in hair products might be absorbed through the scalp and have estrogen-like properties in the body.” In 2019, data from the study were also used to establish a potential link between hair dyes and straighteners and breast cancer.

Putting It in Perspective: What Does the Research on Chemical Hair Straighteners and Cancer Mean for You?

As the NIH notes, uterine cancer is a relatively rare form of cancer, accounting for just about three percent of all new cancer cases each year. Even so, this translated to a total of 65,950 estimated new cases in 2022. As a result, while uterine cancer may be relatively rare overall, it is still a very real concern.

Additionally, for women who contract uterine cancer, the consequences can be severe—and even life-threatening in some cases.

Whether caused by the use of a chemical hair straightener or other factors, uterine cancer can have several significant symptoms. These include pain, bleeding, and difficulty with urination, among others. Tragically, uterine cancer can also be fatal in some cases, with the Cleveland Clinic reporting that “The survival rate decreases to 17% when cancer spreads to other parts of [the] body outside [of the] uterus.”

As a result, women who have used chemical hair straighteners should not ignore the risk that their use of these products may have put them at greater risk for developing uterine cancer. Women who have used chemical hair straighteners should be aware of the symptoms of uterine cancer, and they should seek a diagnosis promptly at the first sign of potential health problems. When seeking treatment, women should tell their doctors that they have used chemical hair straighteners, as this may help inform their doctors’ testing recommendations and diagnoses.

The Link Between Chemical Hair Straighteners and Uterine Cancer: How It Impacts Your Legal Rights

From a legal perspective, the link between chemical hair straighteners and uterine cancer is extremely important. Women who are diagnosed with uterine cancer after using chemical hair straighteners may be entitled to compensation for the financial and non-financial costs of their diagnoses. Many women have already filed chemical hair straightener lawsuits and those who haven’t still can—and should—talk to a lawyer about their legal rights. Companies that sell dangerous products can—and should—be held legally accountable, and it is up to the individuals who use these products to take necessary legal action.

When the link between a chemical hair straightener and a uterine cancer diagnosis is proven, the victim (or the victim’s family) can seek full compensation for all the costs incurred. This includes current and future medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses.

Speak with a Lawyer About Filing a Chemical Hair Straightener Lawsuit for Free

If you have questions about filing a lawsuit related to a uterine cancer diagnosis following the use of a chemical hair straightener, we encourage you to contact us. To speak with a lawyer at Searcy Denney about your legal rights in confidence, please call 800-780-8607 or contact us online today. Your initial consultation is free, and you pay nothing at all unless we win.

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