Writing in the Irish Mirror, Dr. Miriam Stoppard, a dermatologist, has joined the experts warning of the dangers of talcum powder use.
Dr. Stoppard warns that the powder can accumulate in skin creases and irritate, and talc particles can act as an abrasive. She warns against using the powder on babies, “whose delicate skin is much more vulnerable to damage.”
Dr. Stoppard also pointed out the evidence showing talc particles embedded in ovarian and cervical cancers. She cited a report earlier this year linking the use of talc for feminine hygiene with a 44 percent increase in invasive ovarian cancer among African American women, according to the Irish Mirror. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, has classified talcum powder as a possible human carcinogen if used in the female genital area.
Talc, a natural mineral, is used in a wide variety of products, including cosmetics, because of its softness and absorbency. It is used in cosmetic products, such as blusher, because it prevents caking and absorbs excess moisture, Stoppard explains. Talc is also added to pills and chewing gum. But talc residues are often found near asbestos deposits. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and great care must be taken to avoid contaminating talc with asbestos when it is mined.
Many women sprinkle talcum powder on their inner thighs to prevent chafing or they use it in the genital area or sprinkle it on their underwear or sanitary pads to remain fresh. But research dating back to 1982 work by Dr. Daniel W Cramer and his colleagues shows that women who used talcum powder for feminine hygiene were at nearly twice the risk of developing ovarian cancer than non-users. Those who used talcum powder regularly on their genitals and sanitary pads were at more than three times the risk, Stoppard warns.
How talc use might lead to cancer is not clear, Stoppard writes, but studies have shown that talc particles can move up the genitourinary tract into the peritoneal cavity, where the ovaries are. Talc particles can set off inflammation, and inflammation plays an important role in the development of many cancers. Inflammation caused by talc particles could be the mechanism that leads to ovarian cancer in regular talcum powder users.
Baby powder now carries warnings to keep the powder out of the reach of children. Many pediatricians and dermatologists discourage its use on babies, who can become ill or die after breathing in the particles.
Two talcum powder trials in the U.S. this year resulted in large verdicts against talcum powder maker Johnson & Johnson. In the first case, a Missouri jury awarded $72 million to the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer in fall 2015. The civil suit had been filed before the woman’s death and her son became the plaintiff after she died. In May, a jury awarded $55 million to a cancer survivor, National Law Journal reports. At these trials, the jurors were told Johnson & Johnson disregarded decades of warnings signs of the risk of talcum powder use for feminine hygiene.