Talcum Powder Cancer

Studies link use of baby powder, talc to ovarian cancer

talcTalc is a mineral that contains various elements including magnesium, silicon and oxygen. It can also contain asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs. Talc is often ground down into a fine powder, called talcum powder, and used to absorb moisture. It is widely used in cosmetic products such as baby powder and facial powder.

Recent medical reports have linked the use of talc-containing powder like baby powder and body powder to the development of ovarian cancer. Scientists say it is possible that women who regularly use talcum powder in the genital area for hygiene are at risk. The baby powder can move up through the uterus, travel up the fallopian tubes and into the ovaries, where it can cause abnormal cell growth that leads to cancer.

In December 2013, a South Dakota jury found Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers that its talcum products, such as Shower to Shower body powder, could put consumers at risk for ovarian cancer. They found J&J responsible for Plaintiff Deane Berg’s ovarian cancer, which she had developed after using the health care manufacturer’s products for 30 years.

During that trial, Harvard Epidemiologist Dr. Daniel Cramer, who has studied the link between talcum powder and cancer for 30 years, said talc is linked to as many as 2,200 cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed each year. He presented evidence of a “dose response,” in which the risk of ovarian cancer increases with the length of time a woman uses the product in the genital area.

Dr. John J. Godleski, a Harvard pathologist, testified that after examining Deanne’s cancerous tissue with a scanning electron microscope, he found the presence of talc in the sample. Also, toxicologist Gary J. Rosenthal, Ph.D. DABT presented evidence that the mineral talc can have a carcinogenic effect on human tissue.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School studied 3,000 women and found those who used talc in their genital areas were 40 percent more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who did not use the powder.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston reviewed data from eight different studies involving 8,525 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and compared their talcum powder use with 9,800 women who did not have cancer. They found that that talcum powder use increased the chances of developing ovarian cancer by 24 percent.

About 1 in 73 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her lifetime, and her chance of dying as a result of the cancer is about 1 in 100. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014, about 21,980 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer and about 14,270 will die from ovarian cancer.

Important Facts

  • The American Cancer Society estimates 21,980 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year
  • About 14,270 women die each year from ovarian cancer
  • Research indicates the use of talcum powder in the genital area increases a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer between 24 and 41 percent
  • In December 2013 a jury found health care products manufacturer Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers of the link between ovarian cancer and its Shower to Shower body powder and other talc-containing products
  • In May 2014, a class action lawsuit was filed against Johnson & Johnson alleging consumers would not have purchased Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc-containing products if they had known of the link between the products and ovarian cancer