Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

November 26, 2015
After a lot of research, there seems to be real evidence linking talcum powder to an increased likelihood of ovarian cancer.

Probably all of us at some point have used talcum powder, also known as baby powder. Talc is used for a variety of things. We most commonly find it in cosmetics, facial powders, and baby care products. But recent studies have found problems with some of the ingredients in talcum powder. If these are used in excess then it could lead to ovarian cancer.

What is talcum powder?

Talcum powder is mainly comprised of talc, or magnesium silicate. This 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.

According to numerous health studies this can lead to different types of cancer. Since 1970, however, US federal regulations have ruled that talcum powder should be free of asbestos.

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. They do that because it can keep intimate areas dry and odor free.

A slim woman in her panties.

Recent research has caused an impact

However, the American Cancer Society had carried out research and has made some stark warnings. It has said 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 on this. When applied to this area it’s able to travel to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and the ovaries. There it can cause an inflammation of the internal organs. In addition to that, it also creates a favorable environment for the growth of cancer cells.

See also: 7 Reasons You Might Feel Pain in Your Ovaries

The use of talcum powder in baby care and cleaning can also influence the appearance of ovarian cancer later in life, they claim. This is because the talc particles that travel through the female reproductive tract can remain for many years in the ovaries. This could therefore potentially cause serious illness in adulthood.

A study conducted in 1971 found talc particles in 75% of the tumors they studied. There was also another study conducted in eight countries with 19 different researchers. This group determined that women who apply talc products to the genital area have a 30 to 60% greater risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Read more: How is Ovarian Cancer Detected?

However, up until now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t recommended that talc-based products be taken off the market. It hasn’t even 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

A lady putting talc on her baby.
Nevertheless, some health agencies and even talc companies have started to take notice. As a result, they’ve 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. They made that decision was 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 we should only use the product externally. They state that you should avoid using it on broken skin or have 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. They are urging that companies make the relationship between talcum powder and an increased risk of ovarian cancer clear. They recommend the following warning: “Regular use of talcum powder on the genital area by women may substantially increase their risk of ovarian cancer.”

  • Neill, A. S., Nagle, C. M., Spurdle, A. B., & Webb, P. M. (2012). Use of talcum powder and endometrial cancer risk. Cancer Causes and Control. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10552-011-9894-5
  • Cramer, D. W., Liberman, R. F., Titus-Ernstoff, L., Welch, W. R., Greenberg, E. R., Baron, J. A., & Harlow, B. L. (1999). Genital talc exposure and risk of ovarian cancer. Int J Cancer Int J Cancer.

  • Chang, S., & Risch, H. A. (1997). Perineal talc exposure and risk of ovarian carcinoma. Cancer. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1097-0142(19970615)79:12<2396::AID-CNCR15>3.0.CO;2-M