Talcum Powder And Ovarian Cancer
What is Talc?
Talc is a form of magnesium silicate, which is used to make roofing materials, ceramics, paints, paper, industrial lubricants and cosmetics. Because talc deposits are often found near asbestos, mined talc can contain asbestos fibers. In the 1970’s, the United States mandated that all talc in the U.S. would be asbestos-free. While talcum powder has been—and continues to be—a veritable staple in bathrooms and nurseries across the United States, a connection between the use of talcum powder in the genital region of women and elevated risks of ovarian cancer have been on the radar for decades.
Scientists who believed there was a connection between ovarian cancer and talcum powder, went a step further in 1971, stating they believed the particles of talc could enter a woman’s reproductive tract through the vagina, traveling through the cervix, into the uterus, through the fallopian tubes and into the ovaries. It was speculated that the microscopic talc fibers could lead to inflammation, which in turn could increase the risk of ovarian cancer. When the research concerning talcum powder and the risk of ovarian became more public, many women filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, who sells baby powder containing talc, as well as Shower to Shower powder which contains talc.
Although Johnson & Johnson just paid a multi-million-dollar award for the second time in less than three months, regarding a lawsuit claiming talcum powder caused the plaintiff’s ovarian cancer, the pharmaceutical giant continues to maintain the data is inconclusive. In February, a Missouri jury concluded J & J bore some responsibility in the death of Jackie Fox, who died of ovarian cancer, awarding her family $72 million. In early May, a St. Louis jury awarded $55 million in damages for another woman who used J & J talcum powder for 35 years prior to a 2011 ovarian cancer diagnosis. Hundreds more cases are waiting to be heard by juries. Many of the lawsuits are claiming Johnson & Johnson was aware of the potential hazards associated with talcum powder, but neglected to warn consumers.
Johnson & Johnson claims the decisions made by jurors in these lawsuits is not based on scientific evidence, and that there are “decades of sound science proving the safety of talk as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products.” While talc has been proven safe when used in cosmetics, the issue at hand is talcum powder used for feminine hygiene on a regular basis. Epidemiologic studies have offered mixed results regarding whether talcum powder, used in the genital region, can increase the risk of deadly ovarian cancers.
As an example:
- In the 1970’s The Lancet published an article which concluded women should not ignore the potential negative effects of talc on the ovaries.
- In 1992, a study which concluded using baby powder with talc frequently in the genital area resulted in three times the risk of ovarian cancers was published in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
- The American Journal of Epidemiology concluded in 1997 that the use of talc in the genital area could be a contributor to the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Daniel Cramer published a study in 2000, using data from a large Nurses’ Health Study, which concluded there was a 40 percent increased risk for one type of ovarian cancer among women using talcum powder for feminine hygiene. Cramer is an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
- Anticancer Research published a meta-analysis of a compilation and review of data from 16 prior studies in 2003 which concluded baby powder with talc used in the perineal area was associated with a 33 percent increase in the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Dr. Margaret Gates, a Harvard epidemiologist, reaffirmed in 2008 that using talc in the genital region on a weekly basis could increase the risk of ovarian cancer risk by 33 percent, while daily use bumped that risk up to 41 percent.
- Three Harvard researchers published a 2010 study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, which reinforced the notion talc in baby powder could be considered carcinogenic to human beings.
- The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, concluded in 2010 that use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene was “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
- In 2014, Daniel Cramer, who led the study in 2000, and his team, observed a 33 percent increase in ovarian cancer among women who used talcum powder in the perineal area. Cramer told The Scientist that he found evidence of talc in the pelvic lymph nodes of a woman with ovarian cancer who had used talc in the genital area for decades.
Those who have developed ovarian cancer after years of using J & J baby powder with talc or Shower to Shower, could benefit from speaking to an experienced Mississippi product liability attorney.
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