Last updated on August 8th, 2023
There is an emerging link between many hair relaxer products and ovarian cancer. Here is what you need to know about the Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit.
Chemical hair relaxers have been in use for over a century now, but the connection between these haircare products and ovarian cancer has not been widely studied. Only in the past few years has information come out that shows a relationship between hair relaxer use and ovarian (among other) reproductive cancers.
Since this field of research is so new, we’re left with many unanswered questions. Does frequent use of hair relaxers cause ovarian cancer? If so, are some relaxers safer than others? Does frequency of use matter?
If it is determined that the use of hair relaxers contributes to the development of ovarian cancer, victims may have recourse against the companies that manufacture those products. In fact, there is an ongoing multidistrict litigation case against some hair relaxer manufacturers.
Ovarian cancer occurs when malignant cells grow within an ovary. Ovaries are small organs located on either side of the uterus in the female reproductive system. It’s possible for cells in or near the ovaries to mutate and multiply, causing serious illness.
Ovarian cancer is predicted to affect nearly 20,000 women in the United States this year. If previous trends hold true, it will kill nearly 70% of them. According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women.
One reason that ovarian cancer is so deadly is that it is difficult to diagnose. Many of the symptoms can also be symptoms of other, less serious problems. In fact, some of the symptoms are the same symptoms one might feel after a big meal. The Mayo Clinic identifies some of the symptoms as:
Ovarian cancer is serious, but it is often treatable, and early detection is key. Most women will be diagnosed either after a routine pelvic exam or after seeing their doctor with symptoms. CT scans, blood tests, and genetic testing can also aid in diagnosis.
Ovarian cancer is usually treated by a combination of chemotherapy and surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Depending on how far the cancer is spread, surgical procedures may include removing one ovary, removing both ovaries, removing the ovaries and the uterus, and additional surgery if the cancer has spread.
Ovarian cancer has many risk factors and causes, including:
Recent scientific studies may indicate that we should add frequent use of hair relaxers to the above list. A study published in 2021 by the National Institutes of Health found that women who used chemical hair relaxer products more than four times in a year were more than twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer as women who did not use chemical hair relaxers that often. This is a statistically significant number that has made many people start paying more attention to the risk of ovarian cancer when using hair relaxers.
It’s not known exactly how chemical hair relaxers impact ovarian cancer, but there are theories. One such theory is that the chemicals in the product affect hormone levels. The ovaries are part of the endocrine system—that is, they both create hormones and are affected by other hormones in the body.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are natural or man-made substances that can interfere with the normal function of the human endocrine system. These effects can be mild or severe. In some cases, exposure to EDCs has been linked to reproductive cancers, including ovarian cancer.
Chemical hair relaxers contain some of the most well-known EDCs, including phthalates, parabens, and alkylphenols. Some of these chemicals can impact estrogen and androgen levels. The application method of chemical hair relaxers, which are often left in contact with the scalp for ten minutes or more, allows these EDCs to be easily absorbed into the body where they can wreak havoc on the endocrine system.
Scientists continue to study the relationship between chemical hair relaxers and ovarian cancer. However, for many frequent users of hair relaxers who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the connection is already clear.
If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and think chemical hair relaxers might be to blame, you may be able to collect damages from the companies that manufactured the products. There is currently an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, ongoing in federal court. Here are your next steps:
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