Hair Straightening Chemicals Linked to Cancer

A recent study involving nearly 34,000 women had an unsettling finding: there is a clear link between the use of chemical hair straightening products and an increased risk of uterine cancer and other types of cancer. The chemicals found in these products, including parabens and formaldehyde, are to blame for the elevated cancer risk.

Uterine cancer metastasizes slowly and remains highly treatable as long as cancer remains in the uterus. Once the cancerous cells leave the uterus and begin to spread to other body parts, though, the rate of survival drops precipitously. 

Therefore, knowing that you may be at a higher risk for developing uterine cancer due to the use of chemical hair straighteners may help you detect this terrible cancer and obtain life-saving treatment in a timely manner.

Uterine Cancer Explained

As the name implies, uterine cancer is cancer that develops in the uterus. 

There are two types of uterine cancer, with the most common type being endometrial cancer. This type of uterine cancer develops in the lining, or endometrium, of the uterus. While malignant cancer cells can spread outside of the endometrium and uterus, it tends to grow and spread slowly.

The second type of uterine cancer, uterine sarcoma, is less common than endometrial uterine cancer. With uterine sarcoma, malignant cancer cells develop in the uterine muscles or supportive tissue surrounding the uterus. Uterine sarcoma has a poorer prognosis, is more aggressive, and has a greater risk of spreading to other areas.

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 66,000 new cases of uterine cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. A growing number of these new cases might be attributed to the use of hair straightening chemicals.

Indicators of Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer often develops slowly over time and may not manifest in obvious ways. The most common sign of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define abnormal vaginal bleeding as bleeding that is heavier or lighter than usual or occurs between periods.

An abnormal Pap test result may also indicate uterine cancer. If you have an abnormal Pap test, it means that some of the cells of your cervix do not appear like normal cervical cells. This does not necessarily mean you have uterine or cervical cancer, but it may lead to additional tests, treatment, or observation by your medical provider.

Any flow once your periods have stopped is also cause for concern, especially if you have used chemical hair straightening products or have other risk factors for uterine cancer. 

Finally, pain or pressure in your pelvis that lasts for two or more weeks warrants a visit to your medical provider. Pelvic pain and pressure may be caused by several conditions other than uterine cancer, but a medical opinion following evaluation is necessary to determine the cause.

Uterine Cancer Survivability

According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survivability rate for endometrial cancer that remains localized is 95 percent. This means that out of 100 women diagnosed with localized endometrial cancer, 95 of them will still be living five years beyond their diagnosis.

The survivability rates for endometrial cancer decrease if cancer has spread beyond the uterine lining. This is a compelling reason to take any symptoms of uterine cancer seriously and seek a medical opinion as soon as practical. 

The prognosis for uterine sarcoma is significantly poorer. Even when cancer remains localized, uterine sarcoma’s five-year survivability rate is less than 70 percent. This means that at least three out of every ten women diagnosed with localized uterine sarcoma will be alive five years after their diagnosis.

Crucial Study Links Chemical Hair Straightening Products to Uterine Cancer

In 2022, the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences released data from the Sister Study, an 11-year study of nearly 34,000 women in the United States ranging in age from 35 to 74. 

According to the data, women who stated that they used chemical hair straightening products more than four times a year were found to have twice the risk of developing uterine cancer compared to women who did not use these products as frequently.

Researchers noted that this increased risk is likely due to the chemicals found in hair straightening products. These chemicals include parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde. These products are applied to and absorbed through a woman’s scalp, which may have lesions and burns due to the use of hair straighteners and irons.

Black women may be at an even greater risk of developing uterine cancer. Of the women who reported frequent use of chemical hair straightening products, 60 percent identified as Black. 

Because the study identifies a connection between chemical hair straightener use and uterine cancer, and because the study suggests that a greater share of individuals who use these products are Black, the study’s results may be of special interest to Black women.

The study did not find any similar increased risk of uterine cancer from the use of other hair products like bleaching products, perms, highlights, or hair dyes. Moreover, the study did not establish a direct causal link between chemical hair straightener use and uterine cancer.

Other Studies Suggest Links Between Hair Products and Health Dangers

The Sister Study is not the only research study to examine the link between hair products and the risk of health complications like cancer. Other studies have examined the use of hair dyes, perms, straighteners, and relaxers and the risks of developing ovarian cancer and breast cancer.

Legal Rights of Women Who Develop Uterine Cancer

If you are diagnosed with uterine cancer and you have regularly used chemical hair straighteners in the past, you may have legal rights to compensation. Filing a lawsuit against the manufacturers of hair straightening products can enable you to recover financial damages to assist you and your loved ones.

Elements of a Successful Hair Straightening Product Lawsuit

Manufacturers who produce products and then distribute them to the public owe a duty to produce a product that is reasonably safe for its intended uses. 

If a product contains a dangerous ingredient or otherwise presents a health or safety risk, the manufacturer must disclose that information to customers so they can make an informed decision on whether to purchase and use the product.

A uterine cancer lawsuit alleges that the use of one or more hair straightening products led to the development of your uterine cancer. In other words, in order for your compensation lawsuit to succeed, there should be evidence showing a likely causal relationship between your use of chemical hair straighteners and your uterine cancer diagnosis. 

Establishing this link is not easy, but it can be shown by evidence of:

  • Your family’s lack of history of uterine cancer
  • The absence of other risk factors for uterine cancer in your life
  • Your history and practices of using chemical hair straightening products
  • A lack of other plausible reasons why you developed uterine cancer.

The evidence does not need to show a causal relationship exists beyond any doubt, but merely that it is more likely than not true that your use of chemical hair straightening products led to your uterine cancer diagnosis.

Recoverable Compensation in a Uterine Cancer Lawsuit

If your lawsuit succeeds, you will be able to recover financial compensation or damages. These damages are meant to help you address the economic, physical, and mental losses and harm you suffered. Examples of recoverable losses and expenses include the cost of:

  • Your medical care, including hospital stays, treatments, and doctor’s visits
  • Wages you could not earn because you missed work for appointments and recovery
  • Your mental anguish, including depression and anxiety
  • Experiencing a loss of your quality of life

If the evidence in your case shows that the manufacturer of your hair straightening product acted with disregard for consumers’ safety, punitive damages may be available. A court may order this type of damage to punish a manufacturer whose actions the court finds to be callous, egregious, or deserving of condemnation.

Individual Lawsuits Versus Class Action Lawsuits

Depending on your situation and goals, you may be eligible to file an individual lawsuit and pursue compensation for your own injuries or participate in a class action lawsuit. 

In a class action lawsuit, your claim is combined with numerous others’ claims and one or more law firms present your combined claims en masse. Any settlement or award obtained is divided between the class members.

Examples of Uterine Cancer Lawsuits Already Filed

Thirty-two-year-old Jenny Mitchell was diagnosed with uterine cancer after nearly twenty years of chemical hair straightener use that began when she was in grade school. She developed uterine cancer in her late twenties, despite her family having no history of uterine cancer. 

Ms. Mitchell underwent a complete hysterectomy as part of her cancer treatment. She has now filed a lawsuit against several manufacturers of hair straighteners and hair relaxers. 

In her lawsuit, Jenny alleges that the manufacturers marketed their products to consumers without disclosing the harmful nature of the chemicals used in them. She alleges further that it was the frequent use of these products that caused her to develop uterine cancer.

How to Tell if You Have a Case

If you are not certain whether you have a claim for compensation against a hair straightener manufacturer, complete the online form. You will receive a free case evaluation and learn whether you might qualify to participate in a lawsuit.

Finding Legal Assistance 

A product liability case seeking to hold the manufacturer of a dangerous product accountable is a complicated legal proceeding. There is often a considerable amount of research, reports, memoranda, and other documents that need to be obtained and reviewed for usefulness. 

The amount of work that goes into evaluating and presenting a product liability case can be immense. Legal assistance from a qualified attorney is invaluable, but knowing which law firm or attorney to hire can be confusing. 

You should look for legal counsel that:

Has Experience with Complex Cases and Litigation

You do not want your case to be the first complicated or technical lawsuit that they handle. Look for a law firm with attorneys who have significant experience in representing individuals and classes of injury victims in large tort cases.

Has Successfully Recovered Compensation

Every case is different, and just because a law firm has won cases in the past does not mean you are guaranteed success in your case.  Moreover, do not believe that just because a firm recovered millions of dollars for another’s claim that you will successfully recover millions in your uterine cancer lawsuit.

Nonetheless, a law firm or attorney with a history of settling or successfully litigating others’ claims is more likely to know how to succeed in cases like yours.

Listens to You

A good lawyer and law firm will take the time to get to know you, including your questions, concerns, and goals. Ultimately, you are in control of the objectives and desired outcomes of your case, and lawyers employ their skills and knowledge to help you achieve those goals and outcomes.

Establishes Trust

Finally, you should look for an attorney or law firm that you trust to work hard on your behalf. Complex litigation cases may take years to fully resolve, with spurts of court activity interspersed with long periods where no visible progress takes place. 

Having counsel that you trust to be working diligently at all times will save you countless hours of worry and anxiety.

Next Steps if You Are Using Hair Straightening Products

If you or a loved one is a frequent user of hair straightening products, hair relaxers, or other hair care products, you should be careful about the chemicals in these products. They may raise your risk of developing uterine or other forms of cancer. 

Once you suspect you are exhibiting signs of any form of cancer, seek out a professional opinion from your medical provider.

Finally, if you are diagnosed with uterine cancer after prolonged and frequent use of hair straightening products, consider having your case evaluated to see if you are entitled to compensation.


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