The American Cancer Society has updated its website with more detailed information about the link between talcum powder and cancer as lawsuits mount against consumer health care giant Johnson & Johnson alleging the company refuses to warn consumers that its talc-containing products put women at risk for ovarian cancer.
Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral that contains elements such as magnesium, silicon and oxygen. When grinded down to an absorbant powder, known as talcum powder, it is used to cut down on friction, keep skin dry, and to prevent rashes. In its natural form, talc may contain asbestos, a known carcinogen especially in and around the lungs. Since the 1970s, all home-use talcum products in the United States have been asbestos free.
Despite the removal of asbestos, studies have raised concerns about whether women who apply talcum powder regularly to the genital area are at greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. Researchers say that the powder particles can travel through the vagina, uterus and fallopian tubes into the ovaries, where they can cause cancer cells to develop and grow.
One analysis of 16 studies found a near 30 percent increase in ovarian cancer among women who used talcum powder for personal hygiene. “Talc is widely used in many products, so it is important to determine if the increased risk is real,” the American Cancer Society website states. “Research in this area continues.”
One recent study suggested talcum powder applied to the genitals may increase the risk for endometrial, or uterine, cancer in post-menopausal women. “But further studies are needed to explore this possible link,” the organization’s website added.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), is charged with identifying causes of cancer. The organization stated that based on limited evidence from human studies, it classifies the genital use of talc-based body powder as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
“Until more information is available, people concerned about using talcum powder may want to avoid or limit their use of consumer products that contain it. For example, they may want to consider using cornstarch-based cosmetic products instead. There is no evidence at this time linking cornstarch powders with any form of cancer,” the American Cancer Society website cautioned.
Source: American Cancer Society