Top Studies Reveal Link Between Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

Woman in lab testing

Several studies have investigated the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Although many studies have been inconclusive, others have revealed an increased risk of ovarian cancer for women who use products containing talc.

Thousands of ongoing Johnson & Johnson® lawsuits are shedding light on the medical connection between talc and cancer. Although J&J attorneys have tried to disprove this link, an increasing body of evidence suggests that using talc products may put people at higher risk of various cancers.

Studies Linking Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

Talc, in its natural mineral form, can sometimes contain small amounts of cancer-causing asbestos. Studies have been looking into the relationship between ovarian cancer and talc for decades—a 1982 study was the first to suggest a link.

Since then, researchers have conducted many studies to determine if exposure to asbestos-contaminated talc increases cancer risk. One primary research focus is whether women who use talcum powder are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who don’t.

Studies on this topic are either case-control or cohort studies:

  • Case-Control Studies: The participants are women who already have ovarian cancer as well as women who don’t. Researchers ask both groups about their past talcum powder use.
  • Cohort Studies: Researchers monitor the participants’ health and product use over time.

Below are some of the top studies that show a link between ovarian cancer and talc use.

Study 1: Talc Use Increases Lifetime Cancer Risk

A New England case-control study involved 2,041 women with ovarian cancer and another group of 1,578 healthy women. Researchers asked all of the women about their talc use, measuring how regularly the women had applied talc powder to the genital area in the past. The researchers found no higher risk of ovarian cancer for women who used talc on non-genital regions of the body.

However, women who reported regularly using talc on their genital area had a 33 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Study 2: Body Powder Use in African American Women With Ovarian Cancer

Another recent study published in 2017 investigated the risk of ovarian cancer among African American women who use body powder. For the case-control study, researchers asked 584 women with cancer and 745 women without cancer about their powder use.

Body powder use was common in both groups—63 percent of women with ovarian cancer and 53 percent of cancer-free women reported using talc. Using talc body powder anywhere on the body other than the genital region resulted in a 30 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Women who used genital powder were over 40 percent more likely to develop ovarian cancer.

Study 3: Effects of Talc Exposure on Cells

A new study published early this year investigated the molecular changes that occur in cells when they are exposed to talc. Researchers found that treating cells with talc results in mutations that affect how cells behave.

More specifically, talc exposure increased the rate of cell division and decreased the rate of cell death for both cancer cells and normal body cells.

Study 4: A Review of Previous Studies

Finally, a recent systematic review looked at all of the existing research on the link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. In the review, researchers analyzed 24 case-control studies and three cohort studies.

The review revealed that any use of talc in the genital area is associated with a higher risk of ovarian cancer. People who used talc more regularly—over 3,600 times in their life—had a slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer than people who used it less. However, the association between talc use and ovarian cancer was more significant in case-control studies than in cohort studies.

What Medical Experts Are Saying

Medical experts believe that research has revealed plenty of useful information about the link between talc and cancer. Enough studies have demonstrated the dangers associated with talc to suggest that women should practice caution.

Medical experts advise women to avoid using products that contain talc, especially on genital areas.

Even though concerns about asbestos-contaminated talc were raised decades ago, the apparent link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer is relatively new. Because of this, researchers have not yet conducted any large, conclusive studies. Still, the existing research demonstrates an increased risk of ovarian cancer for women who use talc.

The greatest risk comes from using talc that contains asbestos.

It’s impossible for consumers to know whether certain talc-containing products have been contaminated with asbestos particles. It’s particularly difficult for consumers to make healthy decisions when companies like J&J try to hide evidence about asbestos in their products.

If you have ovarian cancer and you’ve used talc products in the past, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact Talcum Powder Cancer Guide for a free legal consultation. Icon

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