Below you’ll find answers to many of the most common questions about talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
Most medical researchers who have studied the connection agree that talc particles in the ovaries can cause inflammation and irritation, leading to the growth of malignant cells. The particles that make up talcum powder are extremely fine and studies have shown that these microscopic fibers can migrate through the vagina and Fallopian tubes into the ovaries.
Talcum powder’s primary purpose is to absorb moisture, which is why it is used worldwide by women for a variety of reasons. Talc can also be found in a variety of other products, particularly cosmetics.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are difficult to recognize and diagnose and are often misconstrued as less serious illnesses. Symptoms may include bloating, abdominal pain, changes in bladder and bowel movements, and overall fatigue.
There is no definitive medical test. In some cases, experts can look at tissue samples and pathology reports to determine if talc fibers are found in a woman’s reproductive organs. Because such techniques can only review a small series of samples, any talc particles present may be missed, or may have already dissipated.
Although there are a number of options for treating ovarian cancer, in many cases the disease has already spread throughout the abdomen and pelvic region of the body before diagnosis. More than 14,000 women in the U.S. lose their fight against ovarian cancer each year, according to the American Cancer Society.
Manufacturers of talcum power products are finally beginning to take note of the scientific studies and litigation documenting the link between talcum powder and an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Currently at least two private label manufacturers have placed a warning about ovarian cancer risks on those products – Angel of Mine Baby Power (sold in Dollar Tree Stores) and Spring Fresh Powder (sold at Walmart stores). It’s interesting to note that the major suppliers of talc do put a cancer warning label on their product before shipping.
Why is there disagreement in the medical community about the role of talc in causing ovarian cancer?
It can often take decades to shift opinions about risk factors and causation of certain diseases, and this uncertainty about talc and ovarian cancer is to be expected. However, when medical professionals – and juries – closely examine the evidence, most are satisfied that the causation relationship exists.
Talc and asbestos, a known and deadly carcinogen, are both naturally-occurring minerals that can be often found together and comingled at mining sites around the world. While manufacturers claim to regularly test and purify talc to eliminate asbestos, the properties of the mineral make it very difficult to detect. Any exposure to asbestos, whether inhaled or applied directly, can have deadly consequences.
Researchers have found trace levels of several naturally-occurring and highly toxic metals such as lead and chromium in different brands of talcum powder products that are packaged and sold to consumers. While the levels may be low, many people view the combination of heavy metals to create an unnecessary health risk.
Why haven’t the FDA or other regulatory agencies forced manufacturers to warn consumers about the dangers of talc?
From the evidence presented at the previous trials, it’s clear that major corporations such as Johnson & Johnson have enjoyed considerable influence over regulatory bodies for many years. It is not unreasonable to speculate that this influence has favorably affected agencies, as well as organizations these companies fund, making it even more difficult to force changes such as proper warning labels.
There is no evidence that corn starch-based products carry any significant health risks. However, the profit margin is much smaller for corn starch-based products compared to talc, so companies have less incentive to stop making and promoting talc-based products.
While the repeated application of talc to the genital area over many years remains the most direct and best-documented exposure risk, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to the potential for asbestos contamination of talcum powder products. That evidence broadens the possible sources for the toxic effects of talc. When inhaled, asbestos has been shown to travel throughout the body through the lymphatic system, including to the ovaries.