How do the chemicals in hair relaxers cause cancer?

Most toxic chemicals in hair relaxers are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with the actions of hormones in the body. Through various mechanisms, endocrine disruptors can lead to several malignant diseases, including uterine and ovarian cancer. Some of the endocrine disruptors in chemical hair relaxers are phthalates, bisphenol A, and parabens.

answered by Gary Anderson

Early life exposure to endocrine disruptors can increase cancer risk much later in life

As exogenous chemicals, meaning they originate from outside the body, endocrine disruptors can impair the function of the endocrine system due to their interaction with estrogen receptors or their estrogen signaling pathways. Consequently, they can induce adverse effects in the normal development of the reproductive organs, such as the uterus and ovaries. These chemicals are involved in carcinogenesis, the formation of cancer, whereby healthy cells turn into malignant cells.

It is worthy of note that a low dose exposure to endocrine disruptors over a prolonged time and to a combination of multiple of these chemicals is of greater concern than a sudden high dose exposure. This is because these chemicals accumulate in the body, insidiously causing damage. Since most Black women, who are the main hair relaxer consumers, start using these harmful products at a very early age, they have a significantly higher cancer risk later in life.

While endocrine disruptors are usually thought of as chemicals that mimic the effect of natural hormones in the body, particularly estrogen, this is just one mechanism by which they cause cancer. Other mechanisms involved in carcinogenesis include:

  • receptor agonist: the chemical can mimic the effect of a natural hormone in the body, such as estrogen or thyroid hormones, by directly binding to its receptor
  • receptor antagonist: instead of binding to the receptor of a hormone and mimicking its actions, the endocrine disruptor will bind to the receptor so that the natural hormone cannot
  • receptor expression: the chemical can alter the number of receptors present for natural hormones, such as bisphenol A, which appears to affect the number of estrogen receptors in the brain
  • signal transduction: there are many signaling pathways in the endocrine system, and a toxic chemical may act by disrupting a wide variety of signaling pathways in the body involving hormones
  • epigenetic alterations: non-genetic changes that affect the way DNA is read may result, a change that has been seen with ovarian cancer cells in the lab
  • hormone synthesis: the production of hormones in the body may be affected in many ways, leading to an increase or a decrease of many hormones

It is important to mention that the impact of endocrine disruptors and their ability to result in uterine or ovarian cancer can vary depending on the age of the woman and even changes in the season or time of day that exposure occurs. The exact relationship between endocrine-disrupting chemicals and cancer is still unknown, and we may never find out how important they are in the cause or progression of cancer. More research has to be done to determine the role of endocrine disruptors in carcinogenesis.

Quality legal assistance and representation for women with cancer due to toxic hair relaxers

If you have been using chemical hair relaxers and now have a diagnosis of uterine cancer, endometriosis, or ovarian cancer, we strongly encourage you to contact our law firm, which specializes in toxic exposure and defective product cases. Our attorneys, who have three decades of experience, will help you determine whether you qualify to file a toxic hair relaxer claim. The only documents we will need from you are your medical records and proof of your use of hair relaxers, such as receipts or hair salon bills.

Because we know how overwhelming struggling with such a terrible disease can be, our compassionate legal team will make sure your involvement in the process will be minimal, and they will gladly take care of the most complex aspects on your behalf. If you feel too ill to participate in the legal process, a trusted family member can step in and help you. Lastly, it is important to note that we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will not have to pay anything out of pocket unless we obtain compensation for you.

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