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Who Qualifies for a Hair Relaxer Lawsuit?

Thousands of women have filed lawsuits alleging chemicals in their hair relaxer products caused them to develop cancer. On this page we will explain who qualifies to file a hair relaxer lawsuit. We will also look at the primary injuries being alleged by plaintiffs in the hair relaxer cases.

What are the Hair Relaxer Lawsuits About?

Recent scientific findings have unveiled a potential correlation between prolonged hair relaxer usage and elevated occurrences of uterine cancer. Uterine cancer, ranking as the fourth most prevalent cancer among women, sees around 65,000 new cases reported annually in the United States, representing about 3.5% of all cancer cases. Notably, the incidence of uterine cancer in Black women is twice as high as in White women in the country.

In a groundbreaking study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in October 2022, researchers delved into the link between hair relaxer usage and cancer over a decade-long investigation. This comprehensive research observed the incidence rates of cancer among women who regularly utilized hair relaxers compared to those who refrained from using them.

The study’s compelling findings revealed that women employing hair relaxers were over twice as likely to receive a uterine cancer diagnosis than non-users. Additionally, a more pronounced increase in uterine cancer incidence was noted among women who reported more frequent use of hair relaxers. Essentially, the study provided the first epidemiologic evidence establishing a distinct and explicit association between hair relaxer use and uterine cancer.

The publication of the Sister Study articles quickly prompted hair relaxer product liability lawsuits. The first group of hair relaxer lawsuits were filed in October 2022 and by the end of the year nearly 20 hair relaxer cases were pending in federal courts across the country. In February 2023, the hair relaxer cancer lawsuits in federal courts were consolidated into a new class action MDL.

Over the course of 2023, thousands of new hair relaxer cancer lawsuits were filed and transferred into the hair relaxer class action MDL. The hair relax MDL was the fastest growing mass tort in the U.S. in 2023 and it has over 5,000 plaintiffs.

The hair relaxer lawsuits are being filed by women who used chemical relaxer products for years and were subsequently diagnosed with one of the health conditions linked to these products: uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, or endometriosis.

Eligibility Criteria for a Hair Relaxer Lawsuit

In order to be eligible to file a hair relaxer lawsuit, potential claimants must meet certain basic criteria. The qualifications that our firm uses to screen potential hair relaxer cases are as follows.

1 Year of Hair Relaxer Use: Potential plaintiffs must be able to show that they regularly used chemical hair relaxer products (at home or at the salon) for a minimum of 1 year. Regular use means at least 3-4 times per year. Keep in mind that 1 year is the minimum, women who used hair relaxer for longer periods will have stronger claims.

Diagnosis With a Qualifying Injury: Prospective plaintiffs must be able to show that after their used hair relaxer for the minimum period, they were diagnosed with one of the following qualifying injuries: uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, or ovarian cancer.

Injuries in the Hair Relaxer Lawsuits

The primary injuries being alleged by plaintiffs in the hair relaxer lawsuits are 3 types of female cancers, all of which have been scientifically linked to long term use of hair relaxer products. Each of these cancers is discussed below.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium. The uterus is a pear-shaped organ in the female reproductive system where a fertilized egg implants and grows into a fetus during pregnancy.

Uterine cancer comes in two main types: endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. Endometrial is the most common type, and it originates in the lining of the uterus, the endometrium. Endometrial cancer is often associated with hormonal changes, particularly an excess of estrogen relative to progesterone. Uterine sarcoma is a less common and more aggressive form of uterine cancer that develops in the muscle or other supporting tissues of the uterus.

Uterine cancer is fairly common, with approximately 65,000 new cases diagnosed annually in the U.S. It accounts for 4 out of every 100 cancer cases, resulting in 12,500 annual deaths (2% of cancer-related deaths).

African American women face a disproportionate impact from uterine cancer and have a higher likelihood of developing uterine fibroids compared to other racial groups. While the overall survival rate for uterine cancer is relatively high at 81%, statistics reveal that Black women in the U.S. experience poorer outcomes, possessing the lowest survival rate among all demographic groups.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer originates in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs responsible for egg production. It is a relatively uncommon form of cancer, constituting just under 1% of all cancer cases in the U.S., with approximately 20,000 new cases diagnosed annually.

Approximately 1 in every 100 women in the U.S. will receive a diagnosis of ovarian cancer during their lifetime. Ovarian cancer carries a significant level of danger, evidenced by an overall 5-year survival rate of only 49% for all types and stages. One contributing factor to this low survival rate is the frequent late-stage diagnosis of ovarian cancer, with only 20% of cases being identified at Stage 1.

The connection between hair relaxer and ovarian cancer is based on the findings of the Sister Study. The study findings indicated that the risk of ovarian cancer approximately doubled among individuals who frequently used chemical hair relaxers in the preceding year. Frequent use, defined as more than four times per year, suggested a potential 50% increase in the risk of ovarian cancer.

While the study wasn’t specifically designed to uncover variations based on race or ethnicity, the hazard ratios for ovarian cancer were elevated among Black women for every use of hair relaxers or perms. The researchers emphasized 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).

Of all the qualifying injuries in the hair relaxer litigation, uterine cancer is supported by the strongest causation evidence. Over the past decade, researchers from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have conducted an extensive investigation known as the “Sister Study,” examining a potential link between exposure to chemicals in hair relaxer products and uterine cancer. The outcomes of this significant NIH Sister Study, involving over 33,000 women, were published in October 2022 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The “Sister Study” is a comprehensive, long-term research initiative led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exploring environmental and genetic factors that might contribute to cancer development. Focused on women with sisters who have had breast cancer, the study, initiated in 2003, has enrolled over 50,000 participants nationwide, including Puerto Rico. Participants contribute to regular health surveys and provide biological samples, such as blood and urine, enabling the study of genetic and environmental factors influencing cancer risk.

The Sister Study revealed that women using hair straightening products were nearly twice as likely to develop uterine cancer compared to non-users, after adjusting for other risk factors. Notably, women reporting more frequent use of straighteners or relaxers (more than 4 times per year) were approximately 2½ times more likely to develop uterine cancer, emphasizing the importance of understanding these associations.

Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer is a type of uterine cancer that originates in the inner wall of the uterus, known as the endometrium, and stands as the most prevalent form of uterine cancer. Uterine sarcoma is the less common alternative.

Endometrial cancer manifests in five distinct histologic types, with the majority falling into either Type 1 or Type 2. Type I, the most common, poses a lower risk of cancer spreading beyond the uterus, while Type II carries a heightened risk of extrauterine disease.

Type I endometrioid adenocarcinoma is linked to a preinvasive condition called endometrial hyperplasia, and the likelihood of the endometrium evolving into invasive adenocarcinoma is influenced by the severity of hyperplasia. Obesity stands as the most significant risk factor for excess estrogen, subsequently contributing to endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer.

The demographic profile of women diagnosed with endometrial cancer generally aligns with those in the menopausal age range, with only about 10% under the age of 44. Notably, individuals involved in hair relaxer lawsuits tend to be younger, possibly indicating a connection between hair relaxer usage and the development of endometrial cancer.

Just like uterine cancer, the connection between hair relaxer and endometrial cancer is very well established in the scientific research. The causation evidence for endometrial cancer comes primarily from the Sister Study.

The Sister Study concluded the long-term use of chemical hair straightening products increased the risk of endometrial cancer by 100%. For women who used hair relaxer more frequently (more than 4 times per year), the risk of endometrial cancer increased 150%.  That is a very statistically significant number and it a big reason why you are seeing so many hair relaxer lawsuits ads on television.

The results of the Sister Study were very significant and may help to explain the disparity in endometrial cancer rates between African American women and other racial groups. A majority of Black women use hair relaxer and the Sister Study suggests that this may explain why they get endometrial cancer at a much higher rate than others.

Contact Us About a Hair Relaxer Lawsuit

Our firm is currently accepting hair relaxer lawsuits. If you used chemical hair straightener and were later diagnosed with uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids, contact our office today for a free consultation at 800-322-3010 or get a free online consultation.