Last week, a devastating study linked women who use hair relaxers to a much higher risk of uterine cancer. The study was shocking to some, but for others, like 32-year-old Missouri woman Jenniffer Mitchell, it provided an answer.
Mitchell had no history of cancer in her family, but in 2018, at 28 years old, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer, forcing her to have her uterus and cervix removed and robbing her of the ability to carry a child. “Not being able to carry my own children has been the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to deal with,” she told Good Morning America. Like many Black women, Mitchell had her hair relaxed as a child, beginning when she was in third grade and 10 years old. She continued using hair relaxers until March 2022 with no knowledge that the products could be connected to her diagnosis. Now she is suing five hair-relaxer manufacturers, including L’Oreal.
Her attorney Ben Crump spoke out, saying: “We represent many, many other women who are coming forward now as they learn the revelations of these scientific findings that say there is a link between the use of chemical relaxers and uterine cancer.” He added that many of these women are women of color, specifically Black women who used relaxers not only because of society’s pressures but also due to marketing by corporations with strategies that target Black women.
No brands have pulled any chemical products off the shelves yet, but we will be watching closely as more of these reports come out.