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Hair straightener brands

For generations, black and Latina women have used a variety of chemical hair products to relax or straighten their hair. The multi-billion-dollar cosmetic industry pressures black and Latina women to conform to traditional beauty standards by showing them in its advertising with beautiful, long, straight hair. However, recent studies show a causal link between hair relaxers and certain cancers.

Many women started using the products at a very young age and continue to receive treatment every four to eight weeks or risk the “natural look” creeping in. Some have used these products for decades. Treatment consists of applying a creamy mix to the hair and scalp and allowing it to sit long enough to produce a “tingle” but not too long to risk burning your scalp.

Study Identifies Link Between Uterine Cancer and Hair Relaxers

The National Institutes of Health study, released on Oct. 17, found that women who used the products, which contain specific chemicals to permanently straighten textured hair, several times a year were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer. Eight of the lawsuits cite the study's findings.

The products have been marketed directly to communities of color, which face pressure to meet eurocentric beauty standards like straight hair, according to Diandra Debrosse Zimmermann of DiCello Levitt, who filed the earliest suit. Another NIH study published earlier this year found that uterine cancer rates are growing in the U.S., and are highest among Black women.

The following types of cancers are being investigated to determine if they may be caused by the use of chemical hair relaxing products:

Uterine Cancer

Every year around 65,000 females develop uterine cancer in the US alone, out of which more than 90% is of endometrial origin. It is commonly diagnosed in the seventh decade, with the mean age being 61 years. The incidence in Black women is twice that of white women. In addition, Black women with uterine cancer carry a poorer prognosis as compared to white women. The NIH study found that women who use chemical hair straightening or relaxing products have a higher risk contracting of uterine cancer. It is this study that really created the statistically significant correlation between Defendants’ products and uterine cancer.

Breast Cancer

A recent study, published in the Carcinogensis Journal by Oxford University, concluded that Black women who used lye-based relaxers at least seven times a year for over 15 years or more had around a 30 per cent increased risk of developing breast cancer, compared with those who used it less frequently.

The US-based researchers examined data from Boston University’s Black Women’s Health Study, which assessed the medical diagnoses of 50,000 African American women over a 25-year time period plus variable factors that could impact upon their wellbeing. Between 1997 and 2017, some 95 per cent reported using lye-based relaxers and 2,311 developed breast cancers.

Uterine Fibroids

Black women have a higher prevalence of uterine fibroids and tumors than any other ethnicity/racial group. More recently, the National Institutes of Health spent eight-years studying over 46,000 women of all races between the ages of 35–74. They were looking for links between chemical hair relaxers and breast cancer. And, they discovered African American women’s breast cancer risk increased risk by 45%. Breast cancer and other reproductive issues, including, fibroid development, are often connected.

There is also another study from the American Journal of Epidemiology further confirms this link. In their group of 23,000 menstruating Black American women, these participants displayed two to three times higher uterine fibroid incidences. In 1997, participants reported on hair relaxer use (age at first use, frequency, duration, number of burns, and type of formulation). From 1997 to 2009, 23,580 premenopausal women were followed for incident uterine leiomyomata. The incidence of uterine leiomyomata is 2–3 times higher in US Black women than in US white women.

Uterine Cancer Signs & Symptoms

It’s important to speak to your health care provider as soon as possible if you notice any of these uterine cancer symptoms:

  • Cramping or pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic area below your belly
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods before menopause
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting postmenopause to any degree
  • Very frequent, heavy, or prolonged vaginal bleeding over the age of 40
  • White or clear vaginal discharge in postmenopausal women

Using chemical hair straightening or relaxer products has been shown to double the risk of uterine cancer in women. If you were diagnosed with uterine cancer after using chemical hair straightening products, you may be eligible for compensation from a hair straightener lawsuit.

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