40 published epidemiologic studies have examined the link between genital talc use by women and ovarian cancer since the 1980s.

With surprising consistency, rigorous research by some of the most respected scientists and medical experts in the world have documented strong links between talc and ovarian cancer. These findings have remained consistent over time, across many patient populations, and study types. Talcum powder contains known carcinogens such as asbestos, fibrous talc, chromium, and nickel.

Studies that link talcum powder and ovarian cancer
  • In April 2021, Health Canada finalized a screening assessment of talc in which the agency concluded: “With regards to perineal exposure, analyses of the available human studies in the peer reviewed literature indicate a consistent and statistically significant positive association between perineal exposure to talc and ovarian cancer. The available data are indicative of a causal effect.” (p.iii)
  • Woolen et al. 2022: A recent study examining whether frequent genital talc use (2 or more times per week) demonstrated that frequent use resulted in a 31-65% increased risk of ovarian cancer. Most women use talcum powder frequently, i.e., multiple times per week, making the Woolen results particularly relevant to the risk of genital talc use.
  • The Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium, a group of researchers from leading medical research institutions in the U.S. and other parts of the world, noted that genital talc use is a well-established risk or causative factor for ovarian cancer.
  • Penninkilampi et al. 2018: Penninkilampi and Eslick (2018) performed a meta-analysis of the studies in women exposed to talc through perineal dusting with talc body powders and reported that “there is a consistent association between perineal talc use and ovarian cancer
  • In a pooled study of cohort study data (O’Brien et al., 2019), researchers found that women with intact genital tracts who used powdered at least one time per week had a statistically significant increased risk of ovarian cancer.
  • The International Agency for the Research of Cancer (IARC) conducted a systematic review of the evidence regarding asbestos and fibrous talc (talc fibers) and found that they were causes of ovarian cancer.
  • Saed, et al. (2019): Johnson’s Baby Powder caused a significant dose-dependent increase in prooxidants with a concomitant decrease in antioxidants and resulted in a significant increase in inflammation.  “These findings are the first to confirm the cellular effect of talc and provide a molecular mechanism to previous reports linking genital use to increased ovarian cancer risk.”  Other recent, similar studies by researchers Mandarino et al. (2020) and Emi et al. (2021) also found that talc and talc plus estrogen resulted in an increase in reactive oxygen species and changes in gene expression which are associated with cancer.
  • Schildkraut et al. 2016: Data from the African American Cancer Epidemiology Study revealed that African American women who used talc in the genital area daily had a statistically significant increased risk of 71%.  Researchers noted that the “use of body powder is an especially important modifiable risk factors for epithelial ovarian cancer in African American women.”
  • Cramer et al. 2016: Perineal talc use was associated with a 33 percent increase in ovarian cancer risk. This study also found a 47% increased risk of ovarian cancer with prolonged talc exposure.
  • Terry et al. 2013: The most recent meta-analysis – compiled 20 to 30 years of data and found a significant causation link between talc applications and ovarian cancer.
  • Cramer et al. 2007: Study involving a 68-year-old woman with talc found in her pelvic lymph nodes, demonstrating the inflammatory reactions of talc exposure in the lower genital tract and support the concept of talc migration following repeated external application. Since the Cramer report in 2007, numerous studies have documented the presence of talc particles, talc fibers and asbestos in ovarian tissue, including McDonald et al. 2019 and Steffen et al. (2020).

Addressing skeptics in the medical community.

To those who would deny that there’s a conclusive link between the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer – look at the literature – it’s all there.
  • Ness et al. 2000: Women who applied talc to genital areas at least once per month for six or more months had a 50 percent increase in ovarian cancer risk and a 60 percent increase in risk when talc was applied to sanitary napkins.
  • Cramer 1999: Genital use of talc powder yielded a 60 percent increase in cancer risk and a 70 percent increase for serious invasive ovarian cancer. This study also found that increased applications of talc resulted in higher cancer risk and prompted a call by the authors for public health warnings about talc dangers. This study also attributed 10% of all ovarian cancers in the US to talcum powder usage.
  • Cook et al. 1997: Direct perineal use of talc powder yielded a 60 percent increase in risk of ovarian cancer diagnosis. The study revealed a trend in which more lifetime applications of talc led to a higher cancer risk.
  • Harlow et al. 1992: Combined results from six case control studies between 1982 and 1989 and found that ovarian cancer risk was 50 percent greater for women who applied genital talc. The research also found that as lifetime talc dose increased, so did ovarian cancer risk.
  • Cramer et al. 1982: Possibly the first definitive case-control study, involving 430 women, that provided support for an association between talc and ovarian cancer.
  • In addition, a 2008 meta-analysis on behalf of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed all prior epidemiologic studies and identified eight studies with the best methodologies. These well-designed studies all found that talc users were significantly more likely to develop ovarian cancer with more talc applications. This meta-analysis found the increased risk of talc use associated with ovarian cancer falls squarely in the range of 30 to 60 percent and likely around 40 percent. Based on this study, the IARC concluded that platy talc (talc without fibers) is a “possible carcinogen.”
  • Even research funded by Johnson & Johnson (Gross & Berg 1995 and Huncharek 2003) has found statistically significant cancer risks associated with genital talc use.
“A ‘real’ statistically significant association has been undeniably established.”– Dr. Bernard Harlow Leading ovarian cancer researcher from Harvard Medical School