There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that using talc in one’s genital area can increase a woman’s chance of getting ovarian cancer. Some of the research indicates that the more she uses talc over the years, the more likely she may get ovarian cancer. If you ever have been a regular user of talcum powder or baby powder, it is important to be aware of what the research on this topic says.
What The Research Suggests
It is estimated that one in every 75 women will get ovarian cancer during her life. (center4research.org). That is approximately 1% and a lot lower than the 12% risk for life of getting breast cancer. But one of the problems with ovarian cancer, unlike breast cancer, is there is no test to screen for it. So, ovarian cancer is not diagnosed early in most cases.
As of 2017, there were more than 20,000 new ovarian cancer cases and more than 14,000 deaths per year. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, a woman has a 92% chance of surviving a minimum of five years. Those chances drop to approximately 30% if ovarian cancer spreads to other parts of the body. (medicalnewstoday.com)
Based on dozens of clinical studies that looked at thousands of women, those who have used baby powder are approximately 30% more likely to get ovarian cancer than women who did not use it. This means, over a lifetime, a woman who uses baby powder could increase her risk of getting this cancer from 1.3% to 1.7%. That is still a low risk, but if one million women use baby powder, it is believed 4,000 more of them will get ovarian cancer, compared to the number who would have gotten it if they had not used the powder.
How Strong Is the Evidence?
A lot of the evidence comes from case-control studies. For this type of clinical study, scientists recruit two different sets of women. The first is women who have ovarian cancer, and women who do not. Each woman is asked to remember if they used baby powder in the past. If they did, how often and how was it used? This type of study cannot tell anyone for sure that baby powder use directly causes ovarian cancer. But the study can tell us if the women who said they use the powder on their genitals are more likely to get cancer.
It should be pointed out there is no guarantee that the memories of these women are completely accurate. But many of them are very confident they used baby powder in their genital region to some extent over the years. And, the steady results of most case control studies of baby powder in the US and many other countries show similar increased risk of ovarian cancer in people who used talcum powder. This adds substantial weight to the credibility of these studies.
Further, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) within the WHO, has concluded there is consistent evidence of a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer among women who have reported using baby powder on their genitals.
The African American Cancer Epidemiology Study (AACES)
The AACES study looked at 585 black women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 11 parts of the United States, to 740 women without ovarian cancer who were in the same age group and demographic. In this clinical study, the use of baby powder was common. It was shown that 63% of women who had ovarian cancer and 53% of women without it had used baby powder.
The study found that of women who had used baby powder anywhere on their body, and specifically on the genitals, were more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Women who said they used talc on their genitals, whether or not they used it elsewhere, were 45% more likely to develop cancer. Rather than having a lifetime risk of 1.3%, the women who used baby powder would have nearly a 2% risk. The main author of the clinical study thought this was significant because black women are more likely generally to use baby powder. So, it is easier to determine if there is a link between using baby powder cancer.
Further, that study found that of black women that had a respiratory condition, including asthma, were more at risk to develop ovarian cancer if they used baby powder, compared to those who did not have any respiratory condition. The study authors think that baby powder causes the body to form inflammation, which could increase the risk of developing cancer cells. It seems logical that women who are more likely to have inflammation, such as those who have some type of respiratory condition, could be at higher risk of getting cancer from baby powder.
The New England Study
The New England ovarian cancer study also suggests that the human body may develop cancer due to inflammation caused by using baby powder. The authors of this clinical study are based at the highly praised Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Their study was financially supported by an NIH grant.
The study compared 2040 women in Massachusetts and New Hampshire who were diagnosed with cancer, with 1580 women in the same age group and location who did not have ovarian cancer. The study found that women who used powder in the genital area, whether or not they used it on other parts of their bodies, were at higher risk to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Most of the women said they used J&J Baby Powder or Shower to Shower powder. Today, many baby powders contain cornstarch instead of talc. Women who used those same powders containing cornstarch were not thought of as talc users in the clinical study.
According to the New England study, women using baby powder were 33% more likely to get ovarian cancer. Rather than having a 1.3% risk for life, women who used baby powder boosted their lifetime risk to 1.7%. But it was found that some women in the study had a higher risk than others. Women using baby powder and had had a tubal ligation or hysterectomy were more likely to get ovarian cancer as compared to other users of baby powder. Researchers think estrogen may make women less vulnerable to talcum powder cancer risks.
Talcum Powder That Contains Asbestos
One reason that talcum powder can cause cancer is it may sometimes contain traces of asbestos. In 2009, the FDA did a small survey of cosmetics that contained baby powder, and concluded none of them had traces of asbestos. FDA stated that while the results were interesting and informative, there was no proof that most cosmetic products containing talcum powder were likely to be free of asbestos. FDA does not mandate companies to provide safety information about cosmetic products, so consumers have to take the word of the company about any risk that use of the product poses.
Overall, the available talcum powder cancer research does suggest a possible increase in the risk of developing cancer with regular use of such products. If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and regularly used baby powder, it is recommended to speak to a talcum powder cancer attorney in your area.
Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer Studies. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.center4research.org/talcum-powder-ovarian-cancer/
Does Baby Powder Cause Cancer? What to Know. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323525.php