Exposure to asbestos is proven to cause several types of cancer, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and ovarian cancer. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can contaminate talc, which is used to make talcum powders for health and beauty products.

A new study proves there is a link between past use of talcum powder and developing ovarian cancer.

Analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology finds that applying talc powder to the genitals was associated with ovarian cancer. The study also finds that the longer people used talcum powder the greater the risk of later developing ovarian cancer.

 

Details on the Talc and Ovarian Cancer Study

The study, conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health, included more than 50,000 women in the United States from 2003-2009. Participants were 35-74 years old.

The researchers analyzed how often the women used talc powder from ages 10-13 and the year before they enrolled in the study. Based on the responses, up to 56% of the women used talc powder on their genitals at some point in their life. The study found that this group was at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Talc was prized during the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century as an ingredient in health and beauty products. It can absorb moisture and keep skin dry and healthy. Women often used talcum powders around their children’s genitals – and also on themselves.

Studies have linked talc and mesothelioma due to the potential of asbestos contamination. There is no proof that talc directly causes this disease. The only known cause is exposure to asbestos.

This new study focusing on ovarian cancer does not prove a direct link from talc, either. The potential of asbestos contamination, for instance, is a variable scientists must consider. However, lead author Katie O’Brien was cited in an article on NBC News saying talc can be abrasive and cause inflammation in areas where it’s applied. Inflammation is associated with the development of cancer.

“We are not aware of any medically necessary reasons why someone would need to use talcum,” O’Brien, an epidemiologist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Said in the NBC News article.

 

Status of Talc and Cancer Lawsuits in the U.S.

The headline around talc and cancer lawsuits in the U.S. revolves around Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. However, these lawsuits are at a standstill waiting on the resolution of the company’s attempt to settle the lawsuits through a bankruptcy filing.

There are more than 50,000 pending lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, the health and beauty company that for decades manufactured and sold Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. Talc was the main ingredient of this powder, which was discontinued in the United States and Canada in 2020.

Johnson & Johnson has tried to sidestep pending and future lawsuits by settling via a bankruptcy tactic called the “Texas Two-Step.” Johnson & Johnson created a subsidiary to shoulder all legal liabilities related to Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, and the subsidiary then filed for bankruptcy.

The first two attempts were blocked by courts, and Johnson & Johnson is attempting a third bankruptcy filing. This attempt focuses solely on settling ovarian cancer lawsuits – which account for a large majority of the more than 50,000 pending lawsuits – and do not address pending mesothelioma lawsuits.

An article published by Reuters claimed Johnson & Johnson knew of asbestos contamination in its talcum powders as early as the 1970s. The company repeatedly denies knowledge and continues to claim its talc Baby Powder is not contaminated with asbestos.

Sources & Author

  1. Intimate Care Products and Incidence of Hormone-Related Cancers: A Quantitative Bias Analysis. Journal of Clinical Oncology. Retrieved from: https://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/JCO.23.02037. Accessed: 05/30/2024.
  2. Study links talc use to ovarian cancer — a potential boon for thousands suing J&J. NBC News. Retrieved from: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/cancer/talc-baby-powder-linked-ovarian-cancer-jj-lawsuit-rcna152493. Accessed: 05/30/2024.
  3. Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder. Reuters. Retrieved from: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/johnsonandjohnson-cancer/. Accessed: 05/30/2024.
Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.

    Sources & Author

Picture of Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.