Jenny Mitchell first began using chemical hair-straightening products back in 2000 when she was in the third grade, and nearly 20 years later the 32-year-old is claiming it was the cause of her developing uterine cancer.
Mitchell had to have a full hysterectomy to remove her uterus, despite no family history of the disease, according to Good Morning America.
She says now, she’s been robbed of the chance of being a mother.
“Dream” Of Motherhood Dashed For Young Woman Who Needed Hysterectomy Due To Chemicals In Hair Relaxers, Lawsuit Claims
“Not being able to carry my own children has been the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to deal with,” she told GMA. “This is a dream of mine that I’ve always wanted.”
Mitchell is now represented by a group of attorneys, including Ben Crump, is suing five hair relaxing manufacturing companies, one of which is L’Oreal USA, claiming their products caused her uterine cancer.
The lawsuit, filed in Illinois, comes a week after a recent study published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and funded by the National Institutes of Health found that frequent users of chemical hair-straightening products may be more likely to develop such cancers than those who don’t use those products.
Jenny Mitchell said she first started using chemical hair-straightening products in 2000 when she was in third grade.
Nearly two decades later, Mitchell, now 32, was diagnosed with uterine cancer, despite having no family history of the disease.https://t.co/A6zNtL7Jd9
— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 25, 2022
As of now, research only hints at a probably link, with about 60 percent of the women in the study who reported using such hair relaxing products were self-identified Black women.
Mitchell said she was “shocked” when she learned of the study.
“But at the same time, I also thought that maybe this could be an answer to my diagnosis,” she said.
Issue Is Prevalent Among Women Of Color, Who Use Such Products In Greater Numbers Study Shows
Mitchell, a Black woman, said many women like herself face societal pressures to use hair relaxing products, which she said meant using it every four weeks to live up to American beauty standards, she said.
“As an African American woman, it is the societal norm to have your hair look a certain way,” she said. “‘Don’t wear your natural hair because it looks unprofessional.’ A lot of women deal with that in all types of settings.”
She added: “I’m hoping to be the voice for millions of other African American women out there because we start so young, getting these chemical relaxers in our hair.”
The other unnamed companies in question did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment, the outlet reports.
Uterine cancer rates and deaths have been on the rise nationwide in recent years, with death rates remaining highest among non-Hispanic Black women , the institute found, after tracking data from 34,000 women in the Sister Study for over a decade.
The Sister Study project has in total tracked the health of around 50,000 women across the country since 2003.
Study Finds Hair Relaxers Have Endocrine Disrupters, Which Affect Hormone-Sensitive Cancers
The study specifically noted that chemical hair straighteners usually contain products known as endocrine disrupters, which can affect hormone-sensitive cancers, according to the outlet.
Those products include parabens, bisphenol A, metals and formaldehyde, per researchers in the NIH study.
Such relaxers can even cause burns and lesions on the scalp, which makes them easier to be absorbed into the body, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Madeliene Gainers.
And Black women are two times more likely to die from uterine cancer than white women, the study shows.
However, the researchers involved in the new student said that “more research is needed” to determine whether if hair-straightening chemicals show a direct link to an increase risk for uterine cancer.
A Black Missouri woman is suing L’Oreal, saying its hair straightening products caused uterine cancer.
Black women are more likely to use such straighteners, which studies link to high uterine cancer risk. Black women are 2x more likely to die of uterine cancer than white women. pic.twitter.com/4IJ6mxolLQ
— AJ+ (@ajplus) October 25, 2022
Attorney Crump Hope Lawsuit Will Bring Greater Awareness To Issue Of Dangerous Chemicals In Hair Relaxers
The study noted that the association between the products and uterine cancer is something directly caused by one another – something Mitchell will need to prove in court.
Meanwhile, Crump says they hope the lawsuit will spread awareness about the harmful chemicals found in hair relaxers, allowing women to make more informed decisions regarding their health.
“Now that we have this knowledge, we have this information, it is incumbent upon us to bring them along,” he said. “We have to make this a public health crisis.”