The Link Between Perineal Talc Exposure and Ovarian Cancer

What Conclusions Have Been Drawn From Clinical Studies on Talcum Powder Exposure?

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson since the first baby powder ovarian cancer lawsuit filed by Deanne Berg in 2013. Berg won the lawsuit against the pharmaceutical giant, yet when she refused a substantial settlement (because she would have been unable to warn other women about the dangers of baby powder with talc), a North Dakota jury ended up finding in her favor, but awarding her no damages. Ten years prior to Berg’s lawsuit, The Anticancer Research Journal published a large-scale review, finding there was a 33 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer among women with long-term perineal use of baby powder with talc. While the Journal found the lifetime risk of a woman developing ovarian cancer to be relatively low, talcum powder was still considered a “viable threat” to women’s health.

The next J & J talcum powder trial had a very different outcome: the family of Jacqueline Fox received a significant monetary award in a wrongful death claim. The Missouri jury found J & J was responsible for failure to warn women regarding the risks of baby powder with talc when used for feminine hygiene as well as conspiracy and negligence. During the Fox trial, it was revealed that a toxicologist named Alfred Wehner—who worked as an outside consultant for J & J during the 1990s—sent a letter to J & J stating, “Anybody who denies the risk of the talc industry will be perceived by the public like it perceives the cigarette industry: denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.” Overall, the odds of a woman in the United States being diagnosed with ovarian cancer are approximately one in 70. Among those who use talcum powder for feminine hygiene, those odds increase to one in 53.

A J & J executive memo introduced at the Fox trial discussed how “to stop the rumor about Ovarian cancer.” One suggestion was to “get two or three experts from the club to make the scientific case.” Although “the club” could refer to scientists the company had previously worked with, the more sinister interpretation was that the executives were asking for scientists who would respond positively to industry “pressure.”  Further, in 2000, scientists with the National Toxicology Program voted 13-2 to list talc, when used for feminine hygiene purposes, as a possible human carcinogen. According to Fox’s attorney, J & J and Imerys (the talc supplier for J & J) then “persuaded” the NTP to defer a decision on the status of talc.

A 1992 study found the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer was greater when the talc was exposed as a body powder on a daily basis, for more than ten years, particularly when applied directly to the perineal area. A 1999 study found that at least 10 percent of ovarian cancers could be explained by the use of talc, and a 2004 study found that talc use led to a higher risk of all types of cancer. This study further found that white women were more likely to use talc, and that following a woman’s first pregnancy, her risk of ovarian cancer (if she used talc) increased significantly.

How an experienced Baby Powder Ovarian Cancer Attorney Can Help Women who have received a diagnosis of ovarian cancer are likely reeling, as they attempt to seek medical treatment and come to grips, emotionally, with the diagnosis. If the ovarian cancer was the result of using Johnson & Johnson baby powder with talc or Shower to Shower with talc, the issue becomes more complex. A well-qualified baby powder ovarian cancer lawyer can help during this difficult time by answering questions, investigating the issue, filing a claim, and ensuring the claim is properly preserved and does not exceed the product liability statute of limitations. 

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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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