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A recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health has shed light on a concerning association between a commonly used hair product and uterine and ovarian cancer. The research reveals that women who use chemical hair relaxers more than four times a year face a twofold increased risk of developing uterine cancer compared to those who do not use such products.

Conducted over a ten-year period, the Sister Study involved approximately 34,000 women aged 35-74. Gynecologic oncologist, Dr. Paola Gehrig, explains that the study found a higher incidence of uterine cancer among women who used hair-straightening chemicals compared to those who did not. The risk increased from around 1.6% to over 4%, underlining the importance of considering this association in the context of overall cancer prevalence.

Chemical hair straighteners and other hair products are associated with hormone-sensitive cancers, including uterine, breast and ovarian cancers. Researchers discovered that some ingredients in chemical straighteners, including parabens and phthalates, get absorbed through the skin and disrupt the endocrine system. Another common ingredient, formaldehyde, is a known human carcinogen. Studies show the toxic chemical damages human DNA and is linked to myeloid leukemia.

While women from various backgrounds use hair straighteners or relaxers, approximately 60% of the study participants who used hair relaxers were Black. This reveals significant disparities as Black women not only use these products more frequently but also begin using them at an earlier age, resulting in prolonged exposure. Alarmingly, Black women face twice the mortality rate from uterine cancer compared to white women, and deaths from uterine cancer are highest among Black women, as reported by the National Cancer Institute.

Since cases of uterine cancer are rising, it is crucial for women, particularly Black women, to be aware of this association and take necessary precautions. Increasing awareness can empower individuals to make informed choices regarding their hair care routines and seek professional advice when necessary.

The recent NIH study linking chemical hair relaxers to uterine cancer urges us to pay attention to the potential health risks associated with commonly used hair products. For Black women, who bear a disproportionate burden of uterine cancer mortality, understanding this association becomes even more critical.

Lawsuits have already been filed against hair straightener manufacturers, and there’s still time for you to take action if you or a loved one were diagnosed with uterine or ovarian cancer. Contact the experienced team at Clark, Perdue & List to learn if you have a case.