Johnson & Johnson (J&J), maker of the famous talcum baby powder, is currently the target of numerous lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada over customers’ claims that its baby powder causes ovarian cancer. Hundreds of women suffering from ovarian cancer all claim to have been long-term users of J&J’s talcum baby powder for use as a feminine hygiene product.
Several millions of dollars have already been awarded in previous lawsuits targetting J&J but the connection between baby powder and cancer is still unclear. The lawsuits have spurred numerous studies on the links between long-term use of talcum baby powder and cancer. There have however been conflicting conclusions on these studies; many support the fact that talcum baby powder causes ovarian cancer or some other form of cancer while others debunk the claims.
Baby Powder And Ovarian Cancer?
Most researchers agree that talcum molecules interact with the body in a way that could possibly cause some reactions, but how exactly talcum molecules interact with the body is unknown.
“This is chronic irritation of the ovary, and we do know that chronic irritation is associated with some carcinomas,” said Dr. James Bentley, a gynecological oncologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “Do we have really good evidence for that? The literature goes back and forth on this all the time.”
Talc is a fine grained mineral having a soft soapy feel and consisting of hydrated magnesium silicate (magnesium, silicon, and oxygen). It is used in a variety of products including talcum baby powder. Contaminated talc can contain asbestos, which is known to cause the deadly cancer mesothelioma.
Dr. Daniel Cramer, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, led a 2016 study which suggested that women who sprinkle talcum powder in their genital area have a one-third higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who do not.
“I’m persuaded by the evidence that talc used in the genital area will reach the ovaries and lymph nodes, and it creates an inflammatory environment that could contribute to the development of cancer,” Cramer said. “I’ve always felt the data was sufficient to warn women about using talc in their feminine hygiene.”
J&J Contests That It’s Talcum Baby Powder Causes Ovarian Cancer
Early last month, a St. Loius jury awarded close to $4.7 billion to 22 women who were longtime users of J&J’s baby powder. Almost all of these women were dusted with talcum powder since they were babies and using the product was just a part of their daily routine even as they got older. They all developed ovarian cancer.
“That was part of my routine because you have a bath and then you put powder on, or you have a shower and you put powder on,” said Rhonda Dobson, who has been using baby powder since her mother began applying it to her as a baby.
“I put it everywhere. I loved it. I thought it smelled pretty. It makes your skin silky and soft.
“Everybody who has suffered through this … if they used baby powder the way I did and they got sick from it, Johnson & Johnson needs to help us.
“We trusted them and we believed in their product,” said Dobson.
But J&J disagrees that its baby powder, which has been in the market since 1894, causes any forms of cancer. The company says it “intends to pursue all available appellate remedies” to contest lawsuits facing it. It went on to state that all legal appeals they have ever mounted against court verdicts have been sustained and found to contain multiple errors.
For readers interested in learning more about the links between talc, asbestos and mesothelioma you can go to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance for more information.