Short Answer: It is unclear. There is some evidence linking the use of hair straighteners and breast cancer, but the data is not conclusive.
There are many more studies connecting regular use of hair straighteners and developing uterine cancer or endometriosis, and there are chemicals in some hair relaxer products that are associated with uterine cancer.
If you or a loved one regularly use (or used) hair straighteners (at least 3-4 times a year for some period of time), speak to a healthcare professional about getting tested for potential health problems. Even if you find nothing wrong, you can get some peace of mind.
We tend to take some of the products we use on a regular basis for granted in terms of their safety. When something is readily available on store shelves, and we use it according to the manufacturer’s directions, we often assume there is nothing to worry about. That might be the case most of the time, but it’s certainly not always true.
The first signs of trouble tend to crop up as possible connections, rather than firm causation. A potential tie between a product or material and a certain type of disease will start to look possible, and then in some cases, it winds up being proven scientifically. For example, while we aren’t at the point of firm proof just yet, there is some indication that there’s a connection between hair relaxer products and breast cancer. Let’s take a closer look.
Rates of Breast Cancer On the Rise Among Black Women
Across the board, breast cancer remains a major problem that is impacting the health of women of all races nationwide, and recently, a trend of an increasing rate of breast cancer specifically in non-Hispanic Black women has become more noticeable. The rate of breast cancer in this group had traditionally been lower than it is for non-Hispanic white women, but those rates are starting to climb, leading researchers to ask, “Why?”
Breast Cancer Impacting Black Women Can Be More Fatal
What’s more concerning is the fact that the breast cancer that impacts Black women tends to be more aggressive and more often fatal than it is in other races. Understanding this racial disparity and where the differences lie may be helpful in getting to the heart of the problem and providing the right care for those affected. And, even better, a greater understanding of the issue could lead to prevention that reduces the number of women impacted in the first place.
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The Potential Role of Hair Straighteners as a Carcinogen
Getting at any differences that are based on race can be tricky, as there are countless variables to consider along the way. With that said, there have been previous studies done to consider the role that hair dye may play in the development of breast cancer in women, with findings that have been rather scattered. Expanding this line of thinking to also look at hair straighteners is a logical step, and one that can help to potentially point out racial differences in the outcomes of breast cancer cases.
Hair Straighteners More Commonly Used By Black Women
The important point to note here is that hair straighteners are typically used by women of African descent more frequently than women in other cultures. Those women tend to be the target market for such products, and thus, establishing any link between these products and incidences of breast cancer would possibly help to explain why breast cancer rates in Black women are rising. Furthermore, it could speak to why the breast cancer cases this demographic faces tend to be more aggressive and more often fatal.
Uterine leiomyomata is found 2 to 3 times higher in African American / Black women than white American women.
Hair Straightener Use a Risk Factor For Uterine Cancer
The possibility of hair straighteners being linked to breast cancer is easy to imagine considering the fact that these products have already been linked to another form of female cancer. Incidences of uterine cancer have also increased in individuals who use straighteners. For women who used hair straighteners for years on a consistent basis, an elevated risk of uterine cancer is a known risk factor. Also, those who work in the hair care industry and are regularly exposed to the chemicals in these products may be at an even higher risk of life-threatening health complications.
Link between hair straightener and uterine cancer is far more researched than any possible connection between breast cancer and hair straightener.
A connection between uterine cancer and hair straighteners doesn’t mean that those same products can conclusively be linked to breast cancer, but such a connection is not hard to imagine. As more and more studies are being performed and more evidence is being gathered, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see a connection identified here.
National Institute of Health:
Regular use of hair straightening chemicals is associated with a higher risk of developing uterine cancer.
Study indicates that Black Women may be at a greater risk because of higher use.
- Did you or a loved one use a hair straightener regularly? (4 times per year)
- Did the person develop uterine cancer?
The National Institute of Health recently reported that women who reported frequent use of hair straightening products, defined as more than four times in the previous year, were more than twice as likely to go on to develop uterine cancer compared to those who did not use the products.
Amber M. Pang Parra is a veteran attorney with over a decade of experience.
Amber’s principal focus is mass torts, where she is guided by a desire to help the many low-income and marginalized individuals who are harmed by the carelessness and greed of far too many corporate interests.
Many of Amber’s clients were injured by using unsafe medical products that they were prescribed by their health practitioners.
Many such injured people lack the resources, knowledge or even language skills to assert their rights.
Contact us at (512) 980-0000 to speak directly to Amber and tell your story.
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Even if you hire Amber and Justinian & Associates, there is no fee unless you receive compensation for your injuries.
Social pressures involved in hair straighteners.
Studies have found that social pressures play a major role in the use of hair straighteners among the Black population. Many individuals feel they’re expected to use these products to alter the characteristics of their natural hair. When Black women leave their hair in its natural state, rather than using straightening chemicals, they may be more likely to experience discrimination and may have a harder time securing employment, studies have shown.
This type of discrimination would be inappropriate regardless of the circumstances, but it is particularly troubling when women are potentially putting their own health at simply to feel accepted. By trying to conform to unfair social norms and expectations, countless Black women may be subjecting themselves to an elevated risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, and many other unknown health threats that could eventually be linked to hair straightener chemicals.
National Cancer Institute raises the alarm about hair straightening chemicals
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute points to extensive research connecting hair straighteners with uterine cancer.
In 2022, an article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) titled “Use of Straighteners and Other Hair Products and Incident Uterine Cancer” found links between regular hair product use and uterine cancer 40,000 participants, mostly African American/Black nearly 40,000 Sister Study participants between ages 35 and 74.
Legal options for people who were injured by regular use of hair straighteners
As more research is done, and as a possible connection between breast cancer and hair relaxers becomes clearer, it might be possible for victims to take legal action against the companies that have sold and promoted these products. While legal action won’t undo the damage that has likely been caused by hair straighteners, it can help to deal with mounting bills and account for the pain and suffering that those diagnosed with cancer experience.
It’s important for any potential victims to monitor this situation moving forward and to reach out for legal help if these cases start to be filed. There is typically a time limit imposed on filing a claim related to this kind of harm, so staying up to date on the options that are available and the latest research in this space is in the best interest of anyone who might be impacted.
Scientific research on the connection between hair straighteners and breast cancer continues, without firm conclusions.
But the science showing hair relaxer chemicals as a risk factor for uterine cancer is more substantial, and lawsuits have begun, and the window to file a claim is closing.
Can we say for certain that there is a causal link between hair relaxers and breast cancer? No – that link has not yet been firmly established. With that said, it’s possible that there is a connection here, and consumers should make their own decisions about whether or not they want to continue using these products knowing that this possibility exists. It will be worth watching the story unfold as research in this area progresses.
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If you or your loved one used hair straighteners and developed health problems like uterine cancer, contact us to qualify and file your claim.
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 Use of straighteners and other hair products and incident uterine cancer. Chang, C.J., O’Brien, K.M., Keil, A.P., Gaston, S.A., Jackson, C.L., Sandler, D.P. and White, A.J., 2022., JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 114(12), pp.1636-1645
 Beauty Inside Out: Examining Beauty Product Use Among Diverse Women and Femme-Identifying Individuals in Northern Manhattan and South Bronx Through an Environmental Justice Framework. Edwards, L., Ahmed, L., Martinez, L., Huda, S., Shamasunder, B., McDonald, J.A., Dubrow, R., Morton, B. and Zota, A.R., 2023. Environmental Justice.