Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

· November 26, 2015

Probably all of us at some point have used talcum powder, also known as baby powder, or another product that contains it as an ingredient. Talc is used for a variety of things, and is most commonly found in cosmetics, facial powders, and products for baby care. But recent studies have found that thanks to some of the ingredients in talcum powder, the excessive use of such products can be linked to ovarian cancer.

What is talcum powder?

Talcum powder is mainly comprised of talc, or magnesium silicate, which is a blend of silicon, magnesium, oxygen, and hydrogen. In its natural form, talc contains a toxic substance that’s most commonly known as asbestos, and that according to numerous health studies can lead to different types of cancer. Since 1970, however, US federal regulations and rules have mandated that talcum powder be free of asbestos.

Today talc is most commonly used as a base ingredient for cosmetic products, as well as other items that are typically marketed towards women. Typically its purpose is to absorb excess oil or moisture, keeping the skin dry and preventing rashes from forming. For this reason, many women use it as a feminine hygiene product because it can keep intimate areas dry and odor free.

Ovarian Cancer
However, the American Cancer Society warns that several studies have shown that there could be a relationship between the use of talcum powder in the genital region and the development of ovarian cancer. All the studies agreed that by applying talcum powder to this area of the body, it’s able to travel to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, causing inflammation of the internal organs while also creating a favorable environment for the growth of cancer cells.

The use of talcum powder in baby care and cleaning can also influence the appearance of ovarian cancer later in life, because the talc particles that travel through the female reproductive tract can be stored for many years in the ovaries, potentially causing serious illness in adulthood.

A study conducted in 1971 found that talc particles are found in 75% of the tumors that were surveyed. In another study conducted in eight countries with 19 different researchers, the group determined that women who apply talc products to the genital area have a 30 to 60% greater risk of developing ovarian cancer.

While the American Cancer Society has already delivered several warnings about the relationship between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t recommended that talc-based products be taken off the market or even at the very least, forced manufacturers to add a label describing the risks of long-term use of those products, particularly in the genital area.

Warnings about the use of talcum powder

Ovarian Cancer
Nevertheless, after viewing the results of numerous studies conducted around the world on talcum powder, numerous health agencies and even some talcum powder brand names have decided to warn the public about the correct use of these products.

The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends using baby powder for the treatment and prevention of diaper rash. That decision was made after finding that talc can damage an infant’s lungs and cause serious respiratory problems.

Johnson & Johnson Brand Baby Powder contains a label that recommends that the product should only be used externally, and that you should avoid using it on broken skin or any contact with the eyes and nose because of potential respiratory problems.

The Coalition for Cancer Prevention has proposed that all products containing talc have a warning label that makes the relationship between talcum powder and an increased risk of ovarian cancer clear: “Regular use of talcum powder on the genital area by women may substantially increase their risk of ovarian cancer.”