Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer: The Risks and Dangers

What are the Risks of developing Talcum Powder Cancer, Baby Powder Cancer, or Talc Cancer with the long term use of baby powder (with talc) for feminine hygiene?

Despite the fact that a growing body of independent research has established a link between the long-term use of baby powder (with talc) / talcum powder and ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson continued to sell baby powder with talc and Shower to Shower body powder with talc with no warnings. Considering the fact that Johnson and Johnson also sells baby powder which contains cornstarch instead of talcum powder, it is unclear why the company continues to sell powder containing talc, even if the company is not 100 percent convinced of the dangers of talc and the apparent increase in risk of developing talc cancer. Johnson & Johnson has been selling baby powder since 1893, promoting it as a means of absorbing unwanted moisture and odors from babies as well as women.

Studies on the Risks and Dangers of Ovarian Talcum Powder Cancer and Baby Powder Cancer

As far back as 1961, one study found carbon particles similar to talc can migrate from the exterior of a woman’s genitals to her ovaries.  A 1968 study concluded nearly 20 percent of talc was fibrous content, similar to asbestos fibers. In 1971, research detailed in the Lancet found talc particles deeply embedded in ovarian and cervical tumors, and in 1976 a follow-up to the 1968 study was done. In this study it was determined that regulatory standards needed to be created for talcum powder.

Harvard researchers concluded in a 1982 study that women who regularly used talcum powder in the genital region had nearly twice the risk of developing talcum powder ovarian cancer. Additonally, women who used talcum powder in the genital region in conjunction with talcum powder on their sanitary napkins had 3.28 times the risk of developing ovarian talc cancer versus women who did neither of those things. A dose-response relationship was found in 1988 between genital talc use and ovarian talcum powder cancer. It was determined that 52 percent of ovarian cancer patients had “regularly” used talc in the genital area prior to their ovarian cancer diagnosis.

Talc was deemed a carcinogen, even when it did not have the asbestos-like fibers in 1993, and in 1994 The Cancer Prevention Coalition urged J & J to remove talc from their powder products. After years of using talc powder to dust condoms, the industry ceased that practice in 1996 out of concern over the potential risk of resulting talcum powder ovarian cancer in women.

California research in 2004 provided some support for the hypothesis that talc used in the perineal area was associated with an increased risk of talcum powder ovarian cancer. The same year that Canada proclaimed talc was potentially toxic (2006), the World Health Organization also noted that as many as half of the women across the globe were using talc in a manner which could increase their talcum powder cancer risk. Finally, in 2011, Harvard researchers found a dose-response relationship between the use of talcum powder in the perineal area and ovarian cancer.

Possible Ovarian Talcum Powder Cancer Deaths

More than 22,000 women will receive a diagnosis of ovarian cancer each year, according to the American Cancer Society, and approximately 14,240 women will die from ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, and currently accounts for more deaths than any other type of reproductive system cancer. This makes a woman’s average risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer one in 75, with a one in 100 chance of dying from ovarian cancer. Because ovarian cancer is rarely diagnosed until it has progressed significantly, it is considered an especially deadly cancer. It is a strong possibility that a certain percentage of these ovarian cancer deaths are related to the long-term use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene. 

Specific Types of Cancers Potentially Related to the Use of Talcum Powder

The long-term use of talcum powder in the genital region appears to be the primary issue, carrying with it an increased risk for ovarian cancer, as detailed by some 23 medical journal articles. It seems the talc fibers may transmigrate through the fallopian tubes and into the ovaries, resulting in a latent talc cancer risk. Fallopian cancer is also a risk from the migrating talc fibers. Serous carcinoma is an epithelial malignancy which arises from the lining of a serous cavity. The most malignant form of ovarian cancer—accounting for up to 70 percent of all cases—is high-grade serous invasive ovarian cancer which originates in the fallopian tube. 

Ovarian Talcum Powder Cancer and Baby Powder Cancer and the FDA

Despite the research showing the alleged link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, the FDA has declined to take any preventative measures. Stating it does not believe there is sufficient evidence to show a potential connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, the agency also cited that due to the way talcum powder is used, declaring it toxic could shake up the consumer market. Talcum powder is routinely used as a personal hygiene product for men and women as well as a treatment for diaper rash in babies.

As far back as 1972, a Baltimore County Health Department officer asked that the agency investigate potential dangers attached to talcum powder. The FDA responded by telling Barry Castleman, he must prove talcum powder was a risky product before they would investigate. When the FDA received a second request from Castleman, the agency replied that manufacturers of cosmetic products do not require FDA approval. After receiving numerous additional requests over the years, the FDA did examine talc samples from talc mines across the U.S. to determine if any of the talc was contaminated with asbestos. It was found there were no traces of asbestos, therefore the FDA has taken the path of least resistance to claims of ovarian talcum powder cancer risks.

Medical experts believe—in theory, at least—that it is possible for talcum powder to reach the ovaries by traveling through the vagina, uterus and Fallopian tubes, into the ovaries. When the talcum powder reaches the ovaries, it can result in inflammation, which is known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Despite this theoretical risk—as well as real risks detailed in numerous studies—the FDA continues to decline to call talcum powder use a risk for ovarian cancer. 

Ovarian Talcum Powder Lawsuits

Seventy-two million dollars was recently awarded to the family of Jacqueline Fox, a 63-years old woman who had used J & J baby powder and Shower to Shower in the genital region for 35 years. The Missouri jury awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages in this wrongful-death lawsuit.  One juror in the Fox trial stated he was most swayed by internal company memos presented at trial. “They could have at least put a warning label on the box, but they didn’t. They did nothing,” said Jerome Kendrick.

One of the memos referred to by Kendrick was from a company medical consultant who equated ignoring the risks of talcum powder used in the genital region was the same as denying the link between smoking cigarettes and cancer. A somewhat puzzling talcum powder verdict was handed down in 2013 in a Sioux Falls, South Dakota federal court. In that case, the jury found that J & J was guilty of failure to warn women of the risks of talcum powder and ovarian cancer, yet awarded no damages. Despite this very lukewarm “win,” the South Dakota case resulted in hundreds more ovarian talcum powder lawsuits.   

Getting Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Legal Help

Despite the recent settlement and the two findings in favor of the plaintiffs, Johnson & Johnson continue to maintain that the statistical associations between the use of talcum powder in the genital region and ovarian cancer are weak, and could be the result of bias in the methods of research. J & J says a causal link is not biologically plausible, asserting there is no scientific proof that talc particles can pass through the genital tract to the ovaries, therefore warnings were not necessary. This flies in the face of the 1971 study in which British researchers found talc particles deeply embedded in ten out of thirteen removed ovarian tumors.

If you or a loved one developed ovarian talcum powder cancer or ovarian baby powder cancer after using Johnson & Johnson baby powder (with talc) or Shower to Shower, getting talcum powder ovarian cancer legal help is essential. An experienced ovarian talcum powder cancer attorney can ensure your rights are properly protected, and can answer your questions thoroughly.

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