Talcum powder has been a common household item for decades. You probably have some in your bathroom right now. What could be more benign than baby powder? Women used it as a feminine hygiene product for years before it was finally marketed as such. But talcum powder was linked to ovarian cancer as far back as the early 1970’s, and recent research has again found an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who use the powder in the groin area.
The Problem with Talcum Powder
Talcum powder is made from a mineral called talc. It starts out as a rock, but when it is ground fine it becomes very soft and slippery. It absorbs moisture and reduces friction making it a great for preventing chafing, rashes, and odors. But there is a potentially deadly downside.
When talcum powder is dusted on the genital area, in women, it can enter the vagina, pass through the cervix into the uterus, travel along the fallopian tubes and enter the ovaries. The fine talc particles settle and collect in the ovaries. This creates an inflammatory response, and it is ongoing because the talc does not dissolve and leave the body. Over time this inflammation can lead to cancer.
Women’s Products and Failure to Warn
Talcum powder is not just sold as baby powder. It is also packaged and marketed as a feminine hygiene product. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) sells it as both baby powder and in a women’s product called Shower to Shower. J&J’s baby powder carries a warning about the inhalation risk in babies on its baby powder, but has no label warning of the risk of ovarian cancer on Shower to Shower.
In 2013, a South Dakota jury ruled in favor of a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Shower to Shower for 30 years, based on J&J’s failure to warn.
The connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer is not a new discovery. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Commonwealth published an article on the subject in 1971, titled “Talc and Carcinoma of the Ovary and Cervix”. In the article, researchers reported finding talc deeply embedded in ovarian tumor tissues.
In 2013 the risk was confirmed again with a study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research. The new study found that a 20% to 30% increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who dusted their groin area with talcum powder.