Ovarian cancer is the most deadly cancer of the female reproductive system. Its high death rate is partly due to the lack of early detection and screening tests. The American Cancer Society estimates that 22,240 cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed in 2013, and approximately 14,030 women died from the disease in that year.
While the causes of ovarian cancer are unknown, most cases are thought to be genetic in nature. Increased hormone levels before and during ovulation may also stimulate the growth of abnormal cells.
However, researchers have identified another possible cause of the deadly disease – one that is 100 percent preventable. Both the American Cancer Society and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance are warning women on their websites that regular application of talcum powder to a woman’s genital area “appears to raise her risk of developing ovarian cancer by 24 percent,” the Alliance’s website says, referencing a new meta-analysis.
An estimated 40 percent of women are thought to use talc products such as baby powder or Shower-to-Shower body powder every day in the genital area for personal hygiene. Researchers warned that the talcum particles can travel into a woman’s body through her vagina and cause inflammation, which provides a hotbed for cancer cells to flourish.
Talc, which is ground down to make talcum powder, is commonly used in facial and body powders. Talc contains a variety of minerals including asbestos, which is a known carcinogen, and products that contain asbestos have been linked to lung cancer. Previous studies have looked into the possible link between talc products and cancer tumors but the evidence has been inconclusive until recently.
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston reviewed data from eight different studies involving 8,525 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and compared their talcum powder use with 9,800 women who did not have cancer. They found that that talcum powder use increased the chances of developing ovarian cancer by a startling 24 percent.
Researchers stressed that the risk was only evident when women used the powder in their genital area, not when the powder was applied solely to other parts of the body.
Last year, a woman won a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson that alleged the company’s Shower-to-Shower body powder caused her to develop ovarian cancer. The lawsuit claimed Johnson & Johnson was aware of the cancer risk associated with its talc-containing product but failed to warn consumers of the risk.
Source: Ovarian Cancer National Alliance