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New Study Supports Link Between Talcum Powder Use and Ovarian Cancer

Feb 10, 2017
Study Backs Link Between Talcum Powder Use & Ovarian Cancer

A study published online ahead of print publication in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention offers further evidence of a link between talcum powder use for feminine hygiene and ovarian cancer.

The study is a meta-analysis of 24 previously published statistical analyses and several prospective studies involving more than 300,000 ovarian cancer patients. Overall, the authors write, women who used talcum powder for feminine hygiene had about a 20 percent increased risk for ovarian cancer compared to women who did not use talcum powder. The authors characterize the findings as "statistically significant."

Nationwide Talcum Powder Litigation

Hundreds of women have filed lawsuits against health care giant Johnson & Johnson, maker of two popular talcum powders, Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder. The lawsuits allege that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn women about the ovarian cancer risk even decades after studies showed a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Some recent studies have also suggested that talcum powder could cause mesothelioma (cancer of the tissue that lines the lungs, stomach, heart, and other organs).

Plaintiffs in talcum powder lawsuits allege that since the 1970s, a growing number of studies have pointed to a link between the use of talcum powder in the genital area and an increased risk for ovarian cancer. The plaintiffs further allege that Johnson & Johnson was aware of this research, but failed to warn the public.

A large talcum powder litigation is underway in federal court in St. Louis. Three trials took place in 2016 and all three trials ended with jury awards to the plaintiffs, with compensatory and punitive damage awards totaling $55 million, $72 million and $70 million. Jury selection in the fourth trial was scheduled to begin on January 30, 2017.

In addition to the Missouri cases, nearly 100 talcum powder lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson have been centralized in a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, with an additional 224 cases pending in a multicounty litigation established in New Jersey's Atlantic County Superior Court.

Attorneys at Parker Waichman are reviewing potential talcum powder lawsuits for women across the country and are available to answer questions about talcum powder risks.

Talcum Powder Background

Talcum Powder Background

Talcum powder, a widely used product, is derived from talc, the soft mineral that can be ground into a fine powder. Talc is used in a variety of cosmetics and personal care products. Talc absorbs moisture and odors and prevents caking. Talcum powder can help prevent chafing. Generations of women regularly used talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product, applying the powder directly to the genital area or sprinkling powder on their underwear or sanitary pads. Johnson & Johnson advertising long encouraged this use, promoting the talcum powder as a way for a woman to feel "fresh." A jingle for a 1980s talcum powder ad campaign promised, "a sprinkle a day helps keep odor away." One plaintiff said she reasoned that a product for babies had to be safe for adult women to use. Legal documents indicate that many of the plaintiffs in talcum powder cases used talcum powder daily for decades before their ovarian cancer diagnosis.

But as early as 1971, researchers found talc particles embedded in ovarian tumors they studied. Later studies confirmed that talc particles could travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes, and into the ovaries. The American Cancer Society explains that talc particles can cause inflammation, which is believed to contribute to the development of tumors. A June 2013 study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that women who regularly used talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product may face a 20 to 30 percent greater risk of ovarian cancer compared to women who did not use talcum powder.

In 2006, Johnson & Johnson's talc supplier put a cancer warning on the talc it supplies, but J&J does not include a warning on the talcum powders it sells to consumers. Johnson's Baby Powder carries carry a warning to keep the powder out of the reach of children and not let the baby inhale the powder because it may cause respiratory problems, but there is no ovarian cancer warning. Condom and surgical glove makers have stopped dusting their products with talc. On December 19, 2016, the FDA published a final rule banning powdered gloves based on the unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury to individuals exposed to powdered gloves (this includes health care professionals and patients).

Although Johnson & Johnson's talc supplier added warning labels in 2006, J&J did not add similar warnings to its products, according to litigation documents. Baby powder does carry a warning to keep it out of the reach of children and many pediatricians discourage its use on babies, who can become ill or die after breathing in the particles. Inhalation studies in female rats demonstrated carcinogenicity, according to the National Toxicology Program.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is an aggressive form of cancer with a high five-year mortality rate. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and about 14,000 women die from the disease. The risk factors for ovarian cancer include age, obesity, use of estrogen therapy after menopause, not having children, genetic mutations, and personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

The disease is difficult to diagnose because early symptoms like abdominal and menstrual discomfort are often dismissed as routine matters. And because there is no diagnostic test to detect the disease early, ovarian cancer is often not diagnosed until its later stages when the disease has spread and the patient's prognosis is poor.

Help for Talcum Powder Users Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer

If you are a talcum powder user who has developed ovarian cancer, you may have valuable legal rights. The experienced attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP can provide a case evaluation at no cost or obligation. To reach the firm, fill out the online contact form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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