Talcum Powder Cancer

Demanding justice for women with ovarian cancer and mesothelioma caused by genital talcum powder use

The results of talcum powder lawsuits in recent years have placed national attention on the link between the use of talc products and epithelial ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. At the center of the cases are popular talcum powder products like Shower to Shower and Johnson’s Baby Powder.

One of America’s most trusted brands, Johnson & Johnson, failed to disclose to their consumers what it had known for decades – the link between talcum powder use and epithelial ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Johnson & Johnson’s own documents reveal that it chose to hide its knowledge from countless American women who used the company’s talcum powder products every day for years.

Talc is an absorbent mineral composed of oxygen, magnesium, and silicon. Prized for its silkiness and odor reduction, Baby Powder has been on babies and for personal hygiene for over a century.

Johnson & Johnson marketed its talcum powder to women for use in their genital region and on panties and sanitary pads as a means to stay dry and fight odors. The pharmaceutical company aggressively pushed its talcum powder in the minority market, heavily targeting African American women and Latinas. As of May 2020, the company is no longer selling its iconic Baby Powder in the United States or Canada.

For decades, scientists and physicians have studied the relationship between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. According to researchers, when talcum powder is applied in the genital region, talc crystals can migrate up the vagina to the ovaries, where they become embedded in the tissue. When the ovaries are unable to flush out the talc particles, they can cause inflammation and the eventual development of cancerous tumors. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that upwards of 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and about 14,000 die from the disease.

The use of talcum powder is also associated with respiratory problems, such as mesothelioma. With standard application, the powder can become airborne and easily inhaled. You may experience wheezing, coughing, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.

Some talcum products contained asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral and known carcinogen.

News outlets have also reported on the discovery of several powder-based makeup kits testing positive for asbestos in the past few years. The reports have led to recalls.

Additionally, researchers note that talc and asbestos have a chemical similarity. Both are silicate minerals with a crystalline structure. When ingested, these minerals are known to cause irritation, resulting in chronic inflammation that can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors.

Many in the scientific community worldwide have recognized the link between talcum powder use and epithelial ovarian cancer. Since 2006, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified genital talc as possibly carcinogenic. In the U.S., both the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society identify the genital use of talc as a “risk factor” for ovarian cancer. Indeed, since 1971, the evidence has become more and more apparent that women’s use of talcum powder in the genital region causes cancer:

  • In 1971, The Lancet published an article in which researchers reported finding talc particles embedded deep within a majority of the ovarian tumors studied.
  • In 1982, then Harvard professor, Dr. Daniel W. Cramer published a landmark study involving 215 ovarian cancer patients and a control group of 215 healthy women. Those who used talcum powder had nearly double the risk for ovarian cancer, and women who used talc products regularly in the genital area had more than three times the risk for ovarian cancer.
  • A 1992 study reported that women who routinely used baby powder had a three times greater risk for developing ovarian cancer. That same year, Johnson & Johnson recognized in an internal memo that “[n]egative publicity from the health community on talc (inhalation, dust, negative doctor endorsement, cancer linkage) continues.”
  • In 2003, a published review of the available literature discussed 16 studies reporting that the incidence of ovarian cancer was 33% more likely in women using talcum powder.
  • A 2010 Harvard study determined that the talc in baby powder causes cancer in humans.
  • In 2013, a review published in the medical journal Cancer Prevention Research reported that the increased risk of ovarian cancer for women who use talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product could be as high as 41%.
  • The December 2015 issue of Epidemiology published a study of 2,041women with ovarian cancer as compared with 2,100 similar women without the disease. The women who regularly applied talcum powder to their genital region, underwear, or feminine hygiene products had a 33% higher risk of ovarian cancer. The study’s lead author was Dr. Daniel W. Cramer , now head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Epidemiology Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston – the same researcher who led the groundbreaking ovarian cancer research back in 1982.
  • A study published in the May 2016 issue of Cancer Epidemiology found that the genital use of talcum powder among African American women is associated with a 44% increased risk of invasive epithelial ovarian cancer.
  • The January 2018 issue of Epidemiology published a study confirming that “there is a consistent association between perineal talc use and ovarian cancer.”
  • A research article published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine (March 2020) and another article published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (January 2020) concluded that “mesothelioma can develop following exposures to cosmetic talcum powders” due to the presence of asbestos contaminants in the talc.

There is no question that as early as 1982, Johnson & Johnson knew about the dangers of talcum powder for consumers of Shower to Shower and Johnson’s Baby Powder. Notwithstanding the growing body of evidence about the link between epithelial ovarian cancer and talcum powder use, Johnson & Johnson decided not to place a warning on its products. In fact, as the research mounted, the company’s internal documents disclose that it developed strategies to “grow the franchise” by marketing more aggressively to Latinas, African American, and obese women. Even after 2006, when the company’s own talc supplier began placing warnings on containers of raw talc, Johnson & Johnson chose not to pass along similar warnings to its consumers.

How How Waters Kraus & Paul can help with filing an ovarian cancer lawsuit

An estimated 17,000 women have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for epithelial ovarian cancer and mesothelioma as a result of using Shower to Shower and Johnson’ s Baby Powder for years. With a national presence and decades of experience representing women and their families in lawsuits against multinational product manufacturers, Waters Kraus & Paul provides aggressive representation throughout the entire case. To learn more about legal representation at Waters Kraus & Paul, or to have one of our attorneys review your potential epithelial ovarian cancer case, email us or call 800.226.9880.

Cancer risks for women who use talcum powder:

  • Nearly double the risk of ovarian cancer for body dusting
  • Over three times the risk of ovarian cancer if regularly used in the genital area
  • 44% risk of ovarian cancer for African American women who use it in the genital area
  • African American women also have a higher mortality rate associated with ovarian cancer

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