Use of talcum powder can lead to risk of ovarian cancer

Researcher calls for warning labels to be applied to genital talc products.

A new report out on the heels of a $72 million judgement against Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products says that use of the powder can increase the risk of women getting ovarian cancer by one-third, according to Fox News.

Talc is a moisture absorbing mineral, composed of magnesium, silicon and oxygen, which, in its natural form, contains asbestos, although the commercial talc products sold in the United States have been asbestos-free since the 1970’s.

Lead author on the report, Dr. Daniel W. Cramer, head of the Obstetric and Gynecology Epidemiology Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, says the research team polled 2,041 women with ovarian cancer and another 2,100 similar women who did not have the disease about their use of talcum powder products.  The results showed that the women who regularly applied talcum to their crotches, sanitary napkins, tampons, and underwear had a 33 percent higher risk of contracting ovarian cancer.

Dr. Cramer had previously reported a link between use of talc in the genital area and an increased risk of ovarian cancer as far back as 1982, but this new study is the first to confine the association to women who used hormone therapy, which the research team writes could explain earlier contradictory results.

Annually, around 20,000 women in the US are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, leading to 14,500 deaths from the disease each year, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Although the CDC does not list talc as a risk factor for ovarian cancer, genital talc was classified as possibly carcinogenic by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research in 2006.

Dr. Cramer, who testified in the lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and in other similar suits, said women should know if they repeatedly use talc, which is a good drying agent, it can get into their vagina and make its way into their upper genital track.  He adds he believes most women would not use the product if they we aware of that information.  He has unsuccessfully called for talc products to have required warning labels about the risks of using the product.

The findings from the research were published in Epidemiology.

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