Using hair relaxer can cause ovarian cancer. A new long-term study from NIH has shown that women who use chemical hair relaxer products are at higher risk for ovarian cancer. research is showing that this may the result of chemicals in hair relaxer products commonly used by Black women. Lawsuits are now being brought by women who used hair relaxer products and were later diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Our hair relaxer attorneys are now investigating potential new hair relaxer ovarian cases. If you are interested in filing a hair relaxer lawsuit, contact our office today at 800-553-8082.
Chemical Hair Relaxers or Straighteners
Hair relaxers (also called “hair perms” or “straighteners”) are cosmetic products used mostly by African American women to make their hair lay flat. Hair relaxing, or lanthionization, is done either at home or at a salon.
The product is applied to the base or root of the hair and left in place to “cook.” During the cooking process, strong chemicals in the product attack the hair’s natural protein structure. This forces the hair to flatten. Retreatment is usually required every 4-8 weeks.
Hair relaxers contain very harsh chemicals such as phthalates. Phthalates are potentially harmful to the human body because they are endocrine-disrupting-chemicals (EDCs). EDCs interfere with the normal activity of the endocrine system, which handles the product of hormones such as estrogen. In most cases, these chemicals are not listed as ingredients but on the product label. Instead, they are often broadly lumped into the “fragrance” or “perfume” categories.
Di-2- ethyl hexyl phthalate (“DEHP”) is a particularly harmful phthalate chemical that is found in hair relaxer products. It is used to make the product adhere to the scalp and absorb into the hair. DEHP is an EDC that is known to cause major disruption to the endocrine system and trigger hormonal imbalances.
Hair Relaxer Can Cause Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is cancer that forms in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs that produce eggs. Ovarian cancer is somewhat rare, making up just under 1% of all cancer cases in the U.S. Only about 20,000 cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed annually.
About 1 out of every 100 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime. Ovarian cancer is comparatively dangerous. The overall 5-year survival rate for all type and stages of ovarian cancer is only 49%. Part of the reason for this low survival rate is that ovarian cancer is frequently not diagnosed until it reaches later stages. Only 20% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in Stage 1.
Over the last 12 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been conducting a comprehensive study on risk factors for female cancers called the “Sister Study.” The NIH Sister Study included over 33,000 participants. In 2021, some of the early results of the Sister Study were published in the journal Carcenogenesis.
This article focused on the part of the Sister Study that evaluated whether endocrine disruptors in hair relaxers can be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause ovarian cancer. The study results showed that the risk of ovarian cancer approximately doubled with frequent use of chemical hair relaxers in the previous year. Frequent use was defined as more than 4 times per year. This suggested that using hair relaxers could increase ovarian cancer risk by 50%.
Although the study was not structured to detect differences based on race or ethnicity, among Black women the ovarian cancer hazard ratios were elevated for every use of hair relaxers or perms. Further, the researchers noted that “given the much higher prevalence of use of these products, the impact of these results is more relevant for African American/Black women.” White A.J., et al., Use of hair products in relation to ovarian cancer risk. Carcinogenesis. 2021 Oct 5;42(9):1189-1195.
Hair Relaxer Linked to Uterine and Breast Cancer
Research has shown that the use of chemical hair relaxer is also connected to other hormone-sensitive female cancers including uterine cancer and breast cancer.
The connection between hair relaxer and uterine cancer was based on additional findings from the NIH Sister Study. The Sister Study findings regarding uterine cancer were published in October 2022 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The study concluded that uterine cancer risk increased by 150% from long-term use of chemical hair relaxer.
A University of Oxford study published in 2021 found that black woman who used chemical hair relaxer a minimum of 7 times per year for 15-years or longer had a 30% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer.
Hair Relaxer Class Action Lawsuit
Hair relaxer lawsuits against the cosmetic companies that manufacture these products are now being brought by women across the country. The first hair relaxer product liability lawsuits were filed in October 2022. These were followed by a steady stream of additional hair relaxer lawsuits filed in courts across the country.
The plaintiffs in these lawsuits are women who used hair relaxers for many years and were subsequently diagnosed with hormone-sensitive cancers such as ovarian cancer and uterine cancer. The defendants in these cases are cosmetic companies who manufacture hair relaxers. The biggest hair relaxer manufacturer is LÓreal, the largest cosmetics company in the world. LÓreal owns the SoftSheen-Carson line of hair relaxers which includes popular brands such as Dark & Lovely and Optimum.
In November 2022, a motion was filed with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) requesting that all hair relaxer lawsuits be consolidated together into a new class action MDL. LÓreal and the other defendants are opposing this, but the JPML is expected to grant the request in January 2023.
Potential Settlement Value of Hair Relaxer Ovarian Cancer Cases
The hair relaxer lawsuits are just starting to get filed, so any settlement values are purely speculative. The scientific evidence in these cases is very new and it is not clear whether it will be admissible in court. Therefore, the settlement payout estimate below is based on a number of very significant assumptions.
Our hair relaxer lawyers estimate that a successful hair relaxer lawsuit could have a potential settlement value of around $400,000 to $750,000. This is higher than our settlement value estimates for uterine fibroid cases but slightly lower than our settlement estimate for uterine cancer cases.
The causation evidence linking ovarian cancer to hair relaxer is good, but not quite as solid as the evidence for uterine cancer. This is the primary reason that we lowered our valuation for ovarian cancer cases.
Contact Us About Filing a Hair Relaxer Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit
Our firm is currently investigating product liability cases alleging that chemicals in hair perm and hair relaxer products caused ovarian cancer. If you used chemical hair straightener and were later diagnosed with ovarian cancer, contact our office today for a free consultation at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.