Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

For decades, Johnson & Johnson marketed their talcum powders as safe for daily feminine hygiene use, but multiple scientific studies have surfaced linking these products with ovarian cancer. Based upon these findings, and a lack of any warning, at least 5,500 talcum powder lawsuits have been filed, and five verdicts since 2016 have awarded women over $724 million in damages. Continue reading to learn about the studies, risk factors, settlements and products involved, or get our free talc & ovarian cancer guide for more information.

What is Talc?

baby powder vs. talcum powderTalc is a common, naturally occurring clay mineral found in large deposits around the world. Because of its silky texture and moisture absorbing properties, it is often used in cosmetics. Talc is best known in its pulverized form as a powder, or marketed under then name “baby powder” to treat diaper rash. However, it is also used as a food and drug additive, and can be found in soap, antiperspirant, toothpaste, makeup and even bath bombs.

Does Talcum Powder Cause Ovarian Cancer?

Scientific studies and juries continue to say yes, although evidence exists on both sides of the argument. In 1971, four OB/GYNs found talc particles in more than 75 percent of the ovarian tumors they investigated. Since then, many additional studies have further supported a connection, but the smoking gun has yet to be discovered.

Even with 40 years of studies pointing to a connection between ovarian tumors and talcum powder, the exact relationship is still unclear. Tumors can develop regardless of whether talc is applied directly or indirectly, such as when dusted onto underwear or sanitary napkins.

One theory is that talc particles can travel through the vagina to the ovaries and cause inflammation. That inflammation can eventually lead to the formation of cancerous tumors. Learn more in our free talc & ovarian cancer guide.

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Is there any scientific proof?

Medical studies continue to show that talc could increase the risk of ovarian tumors. A report from May of 2016 determined that 63% of women with ovarian cancer had dusted themselves with talc. Other results vary from no noticeable increase in risk, to a 33% higher risk (Epidemiology 2015).

A 1999 study by the National Cancer Institute concluded that “avoidance of talc in genital hygiene might reduce the occurrence of a highly lethal form of cancer by at least 10 percent.” Three large-scale studies of over 85,000 women done since 2008 have all found a connection. Based on these studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has deemed talc to be a “possible carcinogen” for women.

Ovarian Cancer and Talc Studies
Study SizeConclusionSource
Meta-analysis of multiple early studies“…epidemiological evidence suggests that use of cosmetic talc in the perineal area may be associated with ovarian cancer risk.”Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, April 2008
66,028 women“…perineal talc use increases the risk of endometrial cancer, particularly among postmenopausal women”Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, April 2010
18,384 womenUsing genital powder has “a 20–30% increase in risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer”Cancer Prevention Research, August 2014

What Products Contain Talcum Powder?

While talc is widely used in many industries, it has only been linked with ovarian cancer when used by women in the genital area. Both of Johnson & Johnson’s body powder products contain talc.

baby powder and shower to shower powderShower-to-Shower has been marketed to women for nearly 50 years as a daily feminine hygiene product to eliminate odors and absorb moisture. Even though Johnson & Johnson was aware of the ovarian cancer risks, the brand never placed a warning label on the product.

Johnson’s Baby Powder has been used by parents for over 100 years to treat diaper rash, and by women for personal hygiene. While Johnson & Johnson still maintains the mineral is safe, they now offer a talc-free baby powder option as well. Beyond the dangers of cancer, parents are encouraged to seek out alternatives like corn starch to avoid possible infant lung problems.

What to Do If You Used Talcum Powder

What should you do if you have used talcum powders for personal hygiene?

  • First, stop using these products on or near your genitals. Do not powder your undergarments, tampons or sanitary napkins.
  • If you exhibit any signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor immediately. Early detection is essential to survival for any form of cancer.
  • If you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer after years of using talcum powder products, talk to a lawyer who can help you understand your legal rights. You may be eligible for compensation to pay for treatment and related expenses, and most reputable attorneys will evaluate your case for free.

Talcum Powder Lawsuits

Genital exposure to talc is a possible carcinogen in women.

March, 2011The International Agency for Research on Cancer

Talcum powder lawsuit verdicts against Johnson & Johnson have been making headlines since 2014. Currently, more than 5,500 cases have been brought against the brand resulting in five major verdicts totaling $724 million. The most recent $417 million Echeverria verdict came from a California court on August 21, 2017, following the May verdict of $110 million to Lois Slemp just three months earlier. Because Johnson & Johnson specifically marketed their Shower-to-Shower and Baby Powder products to women for feminine hygiene – and because they knew about existing studies but refused to include warning labels on their products – Johnson & Johnson may be considered liable.

Women who have used talcum powders and developed ovarian cancer may be eligible to receive compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and other expenses related to their diagnosis. If you believe these products lead to your cancer diagnosis, we can connect you with a lawyer to get a free case evaluation.

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Talc and Lung Cancer

Talc has also been implicated in a number of lung-related diseases and conditions, including lung cancer in miners and industrial workers. However, the results of various studies are conflicting, and the presence of impurities like asbestos could be a contributing factor.

While lung cancer may be a risk, there is actually more evidence for other lung-related conditions, such as pulmonary talcosis, fibrosis, and granulomatosis. Sterile talc powder is sometimes used to help treat or prevent pleural effusion, which is the buildup of fluid between the lungs and the chest wall. This effusion frequently occurs in lung cancer and lung-related cancers like mesothelioma. The talc used in this application is free of asbestos.

Can inhaling talc cause lung cancer?

Inhaling powders made from talc is unlikely to lead directly to lung cancer. While some studies have shown that talc miners have an increased risk of developing lung cancer, other factors may be at play in the studies, such as the presence of radon (a major risk factor for lung cancer) or impurities like asbestos. On the other hand, powders contaminated with asbestos is definitely a risk factor for developing lung cancer. Asbestos itself is a known carcinogen and has been linked directly to lung cancer.