Chemical Hair-Straightening Products May Put Women at Risk for Uterine Cancer: Study

According to a new study from the National Institutes of Health, women who regularly use chemical hair straightening products are nearly 3 times more likely to get uterine cancer by the time they are 70. There was also a large increase in the risk of breast cancer, endometriosis and infertility problems.

A major study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns that routine use of chemical hair-straightening products may be linked to an increased risk of uterine cancer among all women, noting that the risk may be higher for Black women due to a higher frequency of use. The study data included nearly 33,500 women participating in the Sister Study, a study led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which seeks to identify potential risk factors for breast cancer and other serious health conditions among women. And while the researchers did not release information on specific brands or ingredients that may cause an increased uterine cancer risk, they did note that certain chemicals found in hair-straightening products, including formaldehyde, parabens, and bisphenol A, may be contributing factors. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with uterine cancer, breast cancer, or another cancer you believe to be related to a relaxer or hair-straightening product like Ultra Precise, Just for Me, African Pride, or Optimum, contact Consumer Safety Watch as soon as possible to explore your legal options.

Chemical Hair Straightening Linked to Uterine Cancer

While some Black women choose to wear their hair natural, others use relaxers or chemical straightening products to loosen their curls and smooth their textured hair. Earlier this year, the House passed the Creating a Respectful Open World for Natural Hair (Crown) Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on how a person wears their hair. The proposed legislation stems from the growing natural hair movement, which first took root in the 1960s, and seeks to curb the discrimination Black people have faced for wearing their hair in its natural state. Despite a growing emphasis on embracing and celebrating Black hair, however, many Black women have found the process of maintaining their natural hair too laborious and time-consuming and have returned to relaxers and chemical straightening products. The shocking conclusions the NIH researchers reached in their study illustrate the need for more research aimed at identifying and mitigating adverse health outcomes associated with consumer products that are intended for frequent use, such as relaxers and hair-straightening products. 

This new NIH study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, documented the use of several different hair products, including chemical straighteners, relaxers, pressing products, bleach, and hair dyes, among nearly 33,500 American women between the ages of 35 and 74. The women were followed for more than 10 years and there were 378 cases of uterine cancer diagnosed during that time. Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that women who frequently used hair-straightening products (more than four times in the previous year) faced more than double the risk of uterine cancer compared to those who did not. “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%,” said lead author Alexandra White in a statement. 

Some of the products linked to these increased health risks include:

  • Ultra Precise
  • Dark & Lovely
  • Bantu
  • Optimum
  • Motions
  • Just for Me
  • ORS Olive Oil
  • African Pride
  • TCB Naturals
  • Luster’s
  • Africa’s Best
  • Creme of Nature
  • TCB
  • Mizani Rhelaxer
  • Soft & Beautiful
  • Ultra Sheen Supreme

Uterine Cancer Rates, Deaths Highest Among Black Women

Uterine cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer, but NIH warns that uterine cancer rates are on the rise in the United States, with an estimated 65,950 new cases in 2022. And recent research from the National Cancer Institute has shown that deaths from uterine cancer are highest among Black women. In this latest study, about 60% of the participants who reported using chemical straighteners in the previous year self-identified as Black women. And while the researchers did not find that the incidence of uterine cancer differed based on race, they did note that adverse health outcomes potentially associated with chemical straighteners may disproportionately affect Black women due to a higher prevalence of use. “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,” stated study author Che-Jung Chang, Ph.D.

How Consumer Safety Watch Can Help

Additional research is needed to better understand the potential adverse health effects associated with popular hair products, like hair dyes and straighteners, and to identify specific ingredients or chemicals that may be contributing to an increased cancer risk among women. “To our knowledge this is the first epidemiologic study that examined the relationship between straightener use and uterine cancer,” said White. However, the same team of researchers previously published a study linking permanent hair dyes and straighteners to a higher breast cancer risk. To learn more about the potential for chemical hair-straightening products to cause an increased cancer risk, contact Consumer Safety Watch today. We know how devastating a cancer diagnosis can be, and we can help you and your loved ones determine whether you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer. 

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