Does Talcum Powder Cause Cancer?
It depends on who you ask.
Johnson & Johnson, currently embroiled in thousands of lawsuits over its talc-containing Baby Powder, says that its talcum powder does not cause cancer. Many of the plaintiffs suing the pharmaceutical giant claim that decades of using the J&J Baby Powder for feminine hygiene contributed to malignant ovarian tumors.
By itself, talc is generally regarded as safe by the US FDA. The problem is that talc is found in geological formations commingled with deposits of white asbestos ore. Mining companies started attempting to separate the two minerals in the 1970s, but haven’t been able to fully mitigate the hazard. That’s why mined talc can often be contaminated with asbestos, and may end up in the products we use every day.
What do the studies show?
Studies have been mixed, with some studies reporting a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer, and some reporting no increase.
In 1971, doctors as Mount Sinai Medical Center discovered that particles of talc were embedded in 75% of the ovarian tumors studied.
A 1982 Harvard University study found that women who reported the use of talc around the genital area were 3X as likely to develop ovarian cancer.
A Journal of the American Medical Association study of more than 250,000 women found no significant link between the use of powder in the genital area and risk of ovarian cancer among women.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the genital use of talc-based body powder as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
No Clear Answer
Because cancer is so complex, it’s hard to say whether one factor, such as using talcum powder over the years, is the direct and exclusive cause. But, if you are a talcum powder user, it may give you peace of mind to switch to a talc-free alternative.