Can baby powder lead to ovarian cancer

health : Cancer suspicion for talc in baby powder

The US pharmaceutical and drugstore manufacturer Johnson & Johnson has been sentenced by a court in Los Angeles to pay a 63-year-old woman with cancer of $ 417 million. The woman had sued the group because she believed the talc-containing baby powder from the company, which she had used in the genital area for decades, to be the cause of her ovarian cancer - not least because talc was classified as "possibly carcinogenic" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) 2006. Courts in Missouri also recently upheld high claims for damages, while lawsuits in Tennessee and New Jersey were dismissed. The judgments are still pending for thousands of other lawsuits.

Contradicting research results

The company wants to appeal against the judgment of the Californian judge. A carcinogenic effect of talc, powdered talc, has not been scientifically proven.

In fact, in a report published in April this year, the National Cancer Institute in the USA concluded that "the evidence does not support an association between the use of talc in the pelvic floor area and an increased risk of ovarian cancer." Case control studies are "contradicting".

For example, a joint analysis of a total of 16 studies on a total of 12,000 women initially found a 33 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer when using talc. The researchers at the Marshfield Clinic Cancer Center in Wisconsin were unable to find a link between the amount or frequency of powder consumption and the incidence of cancer. They expressly point out that the observational data are insufficient to identify intimates as a trigger for ovarian cancer and point to technical errors in the studies.

No cancer-causing effects of talcum found in 61,000 women

Even the most comprehensive observational study to date - of over 61,000 women who were followed up for 12 years as part of the Women's Health Initiative and of whom about half used talc - found no carcinogenic effects of talc in 2014: 429 of the women developed ovarian cancer, they did a connection with the use of the powder was not found, not even with frequent use, writes study director and cancer epidemiologist Susan Sturgeon of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the "Journal of the National Cancer Institute". Their mother died of ovarian cancer, as did around 14,000 women each year in the United States alone.

Apart from epidemiological studies, the mechanism by which talc could cause ovarian cancer in the first place is also unclear. It has been proven that talc particles from the vaginal area reach the ovaries. The fibers are found there in the mucous membrane and could trigger inflammation or be enclosed by the tissue in the form of cysts. How and whether cancer develops from this has not yet been proven.

Unnecessary powder

Whether talc is used as a baby or intimate powder - it is always unnecessary. Pediatricians advise against its use. Wound creams could also protect delicate baby skin from moisture and inflammation. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Berlin has been warning against baby powder for years and recommends a ban. However, not because of a possible cancer risk, but because the fine powder can cause serious lung damage in young children if it is accidentally inhaled in large quantities. What can happen quickly if the unsecured powder compact turns into a toy in an unobserved moment.

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