Woman Awarded $70 Million Over J&J Talc Lawsuit Says Award Does Not Make Up for Health Issues. A St. Louis jury recently awarded more than $70 million to a Modesto, California woman following a month-long trial and representing the third large verdict awarded by a St. Louis jury against Johnson & Johnson in 2016 ovarian cancer lawsuits. In all, the awards total almost $200 million.
The woman in the most recent case received a stage four ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2012, according to The Associated Press (AP). The woman had no family history of ovarian cancer and did not appear to be at increased risk for the deadly disease; however, her daughter saw a television advertisement discussing the relationship between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The woman told the AP that she used Johnson & Johnson baby powder for most of her life, specifically that, “I used it for 45 years, from age 15.” The woman, now 63 years old said, “I was still using it” at the time she learned of the alleged association. While pleased with verdict, she said that the $70 million does not make up for her fight with cancer and continuing chemotherapy-related health issues. “There’s not enough money in the world to pay for fighting the cancer,” she said at a recent news conference, according to the AP.
In February 2016, a St. Louis jury awarded $72 million to the family of an Alabama woman who died of ovarian cancer, allegedly associated with her J&J baby powder use. Following the announcement, Cambridge professor, Paul Pharoah, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology at Cambridge, said that the use of talcum powder raising ovarian cancer risks is “biologically plausible,” according to The Telegraph Pharoah noted that grains of talcum may enter a woman’s fallopian tubes, causing inflammation in the ovaries, which could lead to cancer. The Telegraph also wrote that J&J did not warn consumers of potential dangers associated with genital talcum powder use, despite the concerns raised by the American Cancer Society as far back as 1999.
In May 2016, a jury awarded $55 million to a South Dakota ovarian cancer survivor, according to the AP. And, as of November 2016, some 2,000 women in the United States have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson over health injuries allegedly associated with J&J’s baby powder and Shower-to-Shower powder.
How Does Talcum Powder Cause Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a very aggressive cancer with low survival rates. Approximately 60 percent of women who receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis are diagnosed at stage three. At stage three, the five-year survival rate is typically as low as a 34 percent survival rate. What’s more, early symptoms of ovarian cancer are difficult to distinguish from abdominal or menstrual discomfort, which delays diagnosis until the ovarian cancer has reached a later stage.
The American Cancer Society estimated that ovarian cancer will have caused the deaths of 14,000 women in 2015. There will be approximately 22,000 new ovarian cancer diagnoses that will be a part of the 1.7 million new cancer diagnoses in the United States in 2016, according to the AP. Known ovarian cancer risks include age, obesity, estrogen use after menopause, never having had children, personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and some specific genetic mutations. Meanwhile, many allege that there is an association between the vaginal use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer. In fact, some lawsuit allegations include that Johnson & Johnson, the maker of J&J baby powder and Shower-to-Shower powder, marketed the powders toward obese, Black, and Latino women, according to the AP.
Talc is a mineral mined from deposits worldwide, including the United States, notes the AP. The softest of known minerals, talc is easily crushed into a white powder and has been broadly used in a variety of cosmetic and personal hygiene products due to its absorbing properties. This practice has been in place since as far back as 1894 when Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder was launched.
Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society released information that talcum powder, such as Johnson & Johnson baby powder and Show-to-Shower powder, is made from the mineral, talc, which contains magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. In its natural form, some talc may contain the carcinogen, asbestos. Although since the 1970s, talcum products used in the United States for home use have allegedly been free of asbestos, concerns remain because the talc in talcum powder is often found near asbestos deposits and great caution must be used to avoid contaminating talc with asbestos during mining. Also, the American Cancer Society suggested that, until increased knowledge on consumer talcum powder use is better understood, women should consider using cornstarch-based cosmetic products, which have not been associated with cancer.
In 2006, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the genital use of talc as “possibly carcinogenic” and some studies have tied talcum powder to ovarian cancer since the 1970s. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still does not list talc as an ovarian cancer risk factor, but does indicate that 14,500 women will die from ovarian cancer yearly, Reuters Health wrote.
Studies Find Association Between Talc and Ovarian Cancer
Because the so-called “perineal” or genital talc powders, such as J&J baby powder and shower-to-Shower powder, contain silicate, there have been links in studies to ovarian cancer in numerous studies. For example, a June 2016 report in the medical publication, Gynecology Oncology, found a potential association between baby powder and ovarian cancer that went as far back to the 1960s, which is when consumers began voicing concern over asbestos contamination in talc.
In 2013, The Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium pooled eight case studies involving analysis of 8525 cases and 9859 controls. Researchers found that, if 40 percent of women use talc and given a relative risk of 1.2, then seven percent of ovarian cancer cases would be caused by talc use, translating to some 1577 annual cases in the United States. Gynecology Oncology notes that this number is neither trivial, nor should it be dismissed and the study author concluded that, “In the interests of public health, I believe we should caution women against using genital talcum powder.”
Research has also revealed that women who use talc on their genital area are 40 percent likelier to develop ovarian cancer and studies conducted over the past several decades have also found this increased risk, according to the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. Researchers believe powder particles applied to or near the genitalia, including on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, and condoms may travel through the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, and to the ovaries, which may lead to cancer-triggering inflammation
Other researched reviewed data from 16 published studies conducted before 2003 and found a 30 percent increased risk in ovarian cancer in talc users. The typical woman’s lifetime risk for ovarian cancer is about 1.4 percent; therefore, the increased risk tied to talc use, individually, is 1.8 percent. According to Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, numerous research revealed a positive association between the use of talcum powder in adult women in their genital area and increased risks for ovarian cancer.
Another study revealed that ovarian cancer risks were discovered to be one-third greater in women who regularly powdered their genital area with talc, according to Reuters Health. The research involved 2,041 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 2,100 women with no ovarian cancer diagnosis. The team discovered that the women who said they routinely applied talc to their “crotches, sanitary napkins, tampons, and underwear” experienced a 33 percent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, according to a report in Epidemiology.