Talcum Powder Linked to Ovarian Cancer
Multiple studies have linked talcum powder to ovarian cancer among women who apply it to their genital area. The risk may be more considerable for epithelial ovarian cancer and ovarian cancers among African American women.
Talc becomes controversial
Johnson & Johnson has been a staple family brand in homes throughout the U.S. for decades. It has also dominated the talcum powder category.
The multinational manufacturing company founded in 1886 is well-known for its medical device and pharmaceutical endeavors, but the name most likely conjures up mental images of its popular consumer goods. It revolutionized infant product offerings with its baby powder, shower gels, and lotions, a market it has been involved in for the past 125 years.
But, the past few years have brought a dark cloud over the company’s reputation. Since 2013, nine court cases have taken place to decide if talcum powder causes ovarian cancer. This ingredient that’s derived from the talc mineral is found in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products, two staple goods from the company that women have been using for a long time. Now in 2018, over 5,000 women have filed claims that place the blame of their ovarian cancer diagnosis on Johnson & Johnson.
We should note that there are other talcum powders on the market not produced by Johnson & Johnson.
This isn’t the first instance of possibly toxic ingredients being found in consumer products. Talcum powder is just one example that is still allowed on U.S. store shelves despite regulatory agencies in other parts of the world completely banning it as an ingredient.
Before you stock up on your hygiene products, here’s what you need to know about the ingredient and the products it can be found in.
What is talcum powder?
Talcum powder is made from crushed talc, a clay mineral found in large quantities around the world. In powder form, the mineral is used in a multitude of hygiene products due to its ability to effectively whisk away bodily moisture. It is both odorless and absorbent, and it can also be used as an anti-caking agent in food products such as rice and gum.
Ovarian cancer and talc
Talcum powder was first seen as a health concern back in 1971 when researchers studied ovarian cancer tumors and found that 75% contained talc particles. Since then, a number of studies have shown a link between ovarian cancer and talc use in the genital region.
Harvard University researchers conducted an analysis of over 8,500 ovarian cancer cases compared to nearly 10,000 control subjects in 2013. The study showed that talc applied to the genital region increased the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer by 24 percent. Serous ovarian cancer risk increased by 20 percent. Endometriod ovarian cancer risk increased by 22 percent. And clear cell tumor risk increased by 24 percent. Furthermore, borderline serous tumor risk increased by 46 percent according to the research.
Another pooled analysis of cases concluded little risk, but this included finding a 12 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer when talc was applied to the genital region.
A 2016 study from the University of Virginia and Duke University studied talc powder use among African American women. This study examined 584 cases of ovarian cancer and 745 control subjects. The researchers found that talc powder use was common in over 62 percent of the women with ovarian cancer.
The research also found that talc powder use in the genital region resulted in a 44 percent increase in ovarian cancer incidence. The study also found a dose-response relationship. This means the more they used the talc, the higher their risk of ovarian cancer.
Fermented wheat germ inhibits cancer growth according to other research.
Asbestos and talcum powder
In addition to ovarian cancer, talcum powder has also sparked concern due to its association with asbestos. Although cosmetic companies are often required to purify talcum powder before they include it in their products, there have been instances where testing has revealed a presence of asbestos.
Because of this contamination, Johnson & Johnson has also been involved in recent litigation for asbestos in its talc-based products. The lawsuit alleges that this asbestos exposure caused one man to be diagnosed with the rare cancer mesothelioma.
As 2018 progresses, we will likely see further developments of the talcum powder and cancer debate as well as additional litigation pending for the family brand.
What products contain talcum powder?
Despite inconclusive studies, it may be beneficial to avoid the potential cancer risks associated with talcum powder exposure. Take the time to read all product labels to look for the inclusion of talcum powder. Many brands have introduced talc-free products that will clearly say so on the label if you decide to make the switch.
Below is a list of common goods to double-check:
- Baby powder
- Cosmetic foundation
- Shampoo & conditioner
Educate yourself on the products you buy
Talcum powder is one of many potential toxins that continues to have a presence on our grocery shelves today. Although both the scientific and legal communities are still debating the legitimacy of talc’s connection to cancer, the issue has spurred on a greater conversation surrounding the safety and regulation of consumer goods. Before you purchase any product, make it a priority to educate yourself on what ingredients may be posing a health risk to you and your family.