An estimated 20,000 women develop ovarian cancer each year, and more than 14,000 die annually. Risk factors include family history, mutations of the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, and use of fertility drugs. A lesser-known risk factor is use of talc-containing products on the genital area for personal hygiene.
The first research on talcum powder and cancer dates back to 1971, when British researchers found talc particles “deeply embedded” in 10 out of 13 ovarian cancer tumors. A decade later, researchers showed the first statistical link between genital use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
Since then, another 20 epidemiological studies have shown an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talc-containing products on their genitals. In fact, one of thse studies suggests that as many as 10 percent – or 2,000 – of ovarian cancer cases may be due to use of baby powder on the genitals.
In 1994, the Cancer Prevention Coalition petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require warnings be placed on talc-containing products informing consumers of the ovarian cancer risk with genital use of the products. The FDA rejected the petition citing lack of evidence.
But the issue was brought back to the forefront nearly 20 years later when Deane Berg filed the first lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson claiming regular use of the company’s Shower to Shower body power caused her to develop ovarian cancer. While the case did not result in an award for damages, the jury did find that Johnson & Johnson was negligent by not warning consumers of the ovarian cancer risk with its talc-containing products, including Shower to Shower and baby powder.
Even the American Cancer Society on its website warns of a possible link between ovarian cancer and genital use of talcum powder. Yet, Johnson & Johnson refuses to add warnings to its talc products. Now the company and its talc supplier Imerys face about 700 claims from women who claim they developed deadly ovarian cancer from regular use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.