A connection between using talcum powder and ovarian cancer has been made before by researchers, but the evidence has not been overwhelming proof that this once ubiquitous hygiene product is harmful. Now, the latest research finds an even stronger link between cancer and talc products. The evidence has been published by a research team from the Tisch Cancer Center at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital. It has far-reaching implications for women’s health and the future of talcum powder lawsuits.
Talc and Talcum Powder
Talc is a natural mineral that is mined from the earth. It has properties that make it desirable as a hygiene product: It absorbs moisture readily and it is smooth and reduces friction. When talc is mined for hygiene products, it is processed by grinding it down into a fine powder. Other minerals may be found in the talk, including known carcinogens like asbestos.
Since 1976, talc products used for personal hygiene must be tested for asbestos. Quality control measures are required to ensure that any cosmetics or food-grade talc be kept free of harmful contaminants like asbestos.
Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
Many women have used talcum powder as a personal hygiene product. A common use is for absorbing moisture and odors in the genital area. When applied externally, it may be possible for the talc powder to migrate and contaminate organs in the body, including the ovaries. Early studies on talc and cancer found evidence of talcum powder inside the ovarian tumors of women who had used the product. Studies have also found that women with ovarian cancer were more likely to have used talcum powder on their genitals than those without ovarian cancer.
These early studies found some links between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but the evidence was not conclusive. In the most recent study researchers looked at a much larger group of women. They investigated over 300,000 women with ovarian cancer and found a definite link between the use of talcum powder and cancer. The risk for developing ovarian cancer, they determined, was 20 percent higher in women who used talcum powder for personal hygiene. Exactly why this risk is increased is unclear, but the researchers think it may be related to a hormonal and inflammatory response to talc in the body.
Talcum Powder, Cancer, and Lawsuits
Women have already filed lawsuits against companies like Johnson & Johnson over talcum powder and cancer and this latest study from Mount Sinai could have an impact on these ongoing suits and new lawsuits. In 2016, three women won suits against the company, which was ordered to pay them settlements in the amounts of $72 million, $55 million, and $70 million.
Johnson & Johnson is facing thousands more lawsuits over ovarian cancer and talcum powder. How these lawsuits will fare depends on studies like this most recent one. The more evidence that scientists find to connect the powder to an increased risk for cancer, the greater the chance are that women will get justice and settlements.