Researchers are exploring the link between women’s talcum powder use and the development of cancers, in particular ovarian and endometrial cancers.
Talcum powder is widely used to absorb moisture and help cut down on friction; it helps keep skin dry and prevents rashes. It is an ingredient in baby powder, adult body and facial powders, and other consumer products. But there has been concern that women who regularly apply talcum powder in the genital area have an increased risk of ovarian cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. It has been suggested that talcum powder may cause cancer if the powder particles—from powder applied directly to the genital area or used on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms—travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. Talc particles that reach the ovaries may cause an inflammatory response, resulting in conditions conducive to the growth of cancer cells.
Several studies have looked at the possible talcum powder-cancer link and some report an increased risk. One recent study suggested that use of talcum powder in the genital area may increase the risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer in women who are past menopause, the cancer society says. Baby powder and other talcum products have never carried a warning of cancer risks.
Last October, in the first lawsuit over talcum powder and ovarian cancer, heard in U.S. District Court in South Dakota (case no. 09-4179), the jury found that the plaintiff had developed ovarian cancer as a result of frequent and regular use of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and its Shower to Shower powder. These two products contain talcum powder. Other women and their families have filed ovarian cancer lawsuits.