Possible Cause of Talc-Related Ovarian Cancer Discovered by Scientists

New Study Sheds Light on the Potential Dangers of Using Baby Powder with Talc

According to Drug Safety News, a recently published article in the journal Reproductive Sciences has possibly determined how talc exposure can lead to ovarian cancer. Three female scientists working at Detroit’s Wayne State University have devoted years of research in an attempt to understand how a woman’s exposure to talc can potentially lead to ovarian cancer. The researchers studied the in vitro application of talc—both to cancerous ovarian cells as well as to healthy cells.

What Happened When Cancer Cells and Healthy Cells Were Exposed to Talc? When the cancerous cells came into contact with the talc, oxidation occurred. This oxidation can be compared to the rusting of an iron surface or the manner in which cut fruit will turn brown when exposed to air. Oxidation also occurred when the healthy cells came into contact with the talc—but in a much more alarming manner. When healthy ovarian cells were exposed to talc, antioxidant levels fell, and oxidants rose rapidly over a 24-hour period. Researchers also found an increase in a protein known as CA-125 when the healthy ovarian cells were exposed to talc. CA-125 is a cancer antigen.

What is a Cancer Antigen? A cancer antigen is a substance found in high amounts in the blood of patients who have certain types of cancer, most notably, ovarian cancer. Doctors can monitor CA-125 levels in patients to determine whether cancer treatments are working, or if the cancer has returned. Normal levels of CA-125 are considered to be anything less than 37 U/ml. Levels of CA-125, which are greater than 120 U/ml, generally indicate a tumor. CA-125 antigens are markers of breast, colorectal, uterine, cervical, pancreas, liver, and lung cancers. This means that when the CA-125 levels rose after healthy cells were exposed to talc, the chances of cancerous tumors were also increasing.  

International Agency for Research on Cancer Claims Talc is a Potential Carcinogen - The IARC, a part of the World Health Organization, has classified powder containing talc—when used in the perineal region—as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” When talc is contaminated by asbestos, the IARC classifies it as “carcinogenic to humans.”  The link between talc and ovarian tumors was first investigated in 1971 when researchers found talc particles in ovarian tumors.

A few years later, a study published in NCBI also found a connection between ovarian cancer and the use of talc in the genital region. Over three decades later, another study published in NCBI found that using talc in the genital region could potentially increase the risk of ovarian cancer by 33 percent. Johnson & Johnson refutes these studies, claiming the studies relied partially on a woman’s memory of her use of talc powder over an extended length of time.

Cancer Cells Appeared to Feed on Talc - Perhaps the most alarming finding of this study was that cancerous cells appeared to “feed” on the talc, with the number of cancer cells growing rapidly. The research team found that exposure to talc also caused similar changes in healthy cells in fallopian tubes. Cancer researchers believe ovarian cancer starts in the fallopian tubes. Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson have filed motions to exclude testimony from Gassan Saed, a member of the research team.

Are the Results of the New Study Definitive? Although the current study cannot be considered 100 percent definitive, it does give plaintiffs who are currently involved in talc powder litigation to hold Johnson & Johnson accountable. There are currently a staggering 14,000 pending talc powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, and the majority of the verdicts to date have favored the plaintiffs. In fact, just last year, a federal St. Louis jury awarded a substantial judgement to a group of 22 women who were suing J & J, claiming the company’s talc powder caused their ovarian cancers.

Should You File a Baby Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit? Women who have used Johnson & Johnson baby powder with talc or Shower to Shower with talc who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer could benefit from speaking to an experienced baby powder ovarian cancer lawyer who can discuss the unique facts and circumstances surrounding your potential baby powder ovarian cancer lawsuit, helping you determine whether such a lawsuit is right for you.

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Author: Andrew Sullo
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Andrew Sullo

Andrew SulloAndrew Sullo

Andrew Sullo is a National Trial Lawyer's Top 100 Selection for 2013-2019. He is a member of the American Association of Justice (2013-2019), and a recipient of the 2019 AVVO Client's Choice Award.

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