Reuters reported on a new talc study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention this May that African American women who used talcum powder in the genital area had more than a 40 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer.
In an email interview with Reuters Health, Dr. Nicolas Wentzensen, head of clinical epidemiology for the National Cancer Institute, affirmed the study, saying that the research was well-conducted. Reuters reported Wentzensen “noted that African-American women are underrepresented in many epidemiological studies.”
The study included 1,329 African-American women, 584 diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 745 without the disease. Researchers interviewed them about their use of talcum powder.
According to Reuters, Principal Investigator Joellen Schildkraut, an epidemiologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, believes that by focusing on a large group of a population known to use talc, the study was more powerful than, for example, two prospective studies that did not find a link between talc and ovarian cancer and are often used to defend talc’s safety.
“Schildkraut believes the prospective studies included too few talc users and too few ovarian cancer cases to uncover a relationship,” according to the Reuters report.
The article notes that in the recent talc trials internal documents from Johnson and Johnson were made public, revealing the company chose to target African-American and hispanic women with marketing campaigns designed to revive sales of talcum powder products. According to a Bloomberg article a few months ago the company was already aware of studies that were linking talc to ovarian cancer, with one particular memo from the early 1990s outlining a plan for a race-specific advertising campaign while also acknowledging the “negative publicity” of cancer linkage.
“African-American women have been targeted for use of body powder, and they use it more commonly,” Schildkraut told Reuters Health. “I was a cynic until these recent studies came out. As you look across all these studies, I would say, why use it? It’s an avoidable risk for ovarian cancer,” she said.