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Ovarian Cancer and Talcum Powder Concerns on the Rise

Posted by Rob Jenner on Aug 07, 2014 in Consumer Alerts

Does talcum powder regularly applied to the genital area increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer? A jury in North Dakota last October found that it did. A class action requested in California claims it does, showing that a growing number of women are obviously concerned about it.

What Medical Science Says

An analysis published in May 2013 by the Cancer Prevention Research journal found that women who use talc on their genitals have an overall 30% increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. The study looked at data from 16 earlier studies to reach its conclusion. Although the increase seems significant, the American Cancer Society notes that a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is about 1.4%, so even with a 30% increase, her lifetime risk would be about 1.8%.

However, according to Harvard researcher Dr. Daniel Cramer, who has made studying ovarian cancer his life’s work, use of talc may contribute to about 10,000 new cases of ovarian cancer each year. So although the increase may be small, the impact on women’s lives is not. According to Dr. Cramer’s research, baby powder on the genitals may migrate through the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, with evidence of talc found within some ovarian tumors. (Talc applied to other areas of the body has shown no link to cancer, according to researchers.)

What Members of a Jury Concluded

Last fall a federal jury in Sioux City heard evidence that Johnson & Johnson, the defendant in an ovarian cancer lawsuit, had known about the talc-ovarian cancer link for decades but chose not to include a warning on its talc products. After hearing from both sides, the jury found that, indeed, J&J’s Shower-to-Shower body talc caused the woman’s ovarian cancer.

Other women are coming forward. Plaintiffs with ovarian cancer have asked a California judge to certify a class action lawsuit against the makers of talcum powder for failing to warn them of the increased risk.

What I Say

Why take the risk? The American Cancer Society advices women to stop using talc on themselves or their babies. Powders are considered dangerous to babies because they can be inhaled. The ACS points out you can use corn-based powders instead. Even just plain cornstarch absorbs moisture and can smooth a bad diaper rash.

And, if you have used talc for years and developed ovarian cancer, talk to a lawyer who specializes in taking big companies to court over dangerous products to see what recourse you have. Sometimes lawsuits are the only way to get big companies to do the right thing.

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