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Study Links Talcum Powder to Ovarian Cancer

three spilled bottles of talcum powder

There is a significant link between women’s talcum powder use and ovarian cancer, researchers at a New York cancer institute reported.

Dr. Paolo Boffetta and colleagues at the Tisch Cancer Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan published their findings in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. Researchers looked at 24 previously published statistical analyses and studies with data on more than 300,000 women with ovarian cancer.

Bofetta and colleagues found a “weak but statistically significant association between genital use of talc and ovarian cancer, which appears to be limited to serous carcinoma.”

“Overall, it is about a 20 percent higher risk for women who say they used talc, compared to women who say they did not use it,” Boffetta told Newsday. The researchers stress that the results cannot prove how talc causes cancer, however.

Women filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson claiming Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower talc products caused their ovarian cancer.

J&J asserts its talc products are safe.

“We are guided by the science which supports the safety of Johnson’s baby powder,” J&J’s Tara Glascow said in a video statement.

Johnson & Johnson lost three talcum powder lawsuits in 2016. Three St. Louis juries ordered the drug giant to pay $55 million, $70 million and $72 million to women with ovarian cancer.

Expert: Talc May Cause Ovarian Cancer in Thousands

Evidence revealed at trials convinced juries that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products may leads to ovarian cancer.

During the trial of Deane Berg, Dr. Daniel Cramer — a Brigham and Women’s Hospital obstetrician and gynecologist — testified that about 10,000 women may develop ovarian cancer each year because of talcum powder. He published a study finding a 33 percent increase in risk of ovarian cancer linked to talcum powder.

Another doctor at Brigham and Women’s hospital, pathologist Dr. John Godleski, testified he found talc particles in Berg’s ovarian tumor.

Cramer’s 2016 study in Epidemiology suggests the hormones estrogen and prolactin may play a part in creating an inflammatory response to talc.

Other Studies Link Talc to Ovarian Cancer

Since the 1960s, researchers observed a possible link between talc powders that contained asbestos, Cramer wrote.

The first study linking genital talcum powder use to ovarian cancer published in 1982. In 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined genital talc use was “possibly carcinogenic.”

But, there is still controversy over whether or not talc causes ovarian cancer. Experts say many studies are inconclusive.

One 2014 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute by Houghton and colleagues found no association.

According to Cramer, this study was flawed because it didn’t weigh the role of estrogen in increasing the risk for postmenopausal women.

Johnson & Johnson faces more than 1,700 talcum powder lawsuits primarily in Missouri, California and New Jersey courts. The next trial takes place in Missouri on Feb 6.

Last modified: February 21, 2017


Michelle Y. Llamas is a senior content writer. She is also the host of Drugwatch Podcast where she interviews medical experts as well as patients affected by drugs and medical devices. She has written medical and legal content for several years — including an article in The Journal of Palliative Medicine and an academic book review for Nova Science Publishers. With Drugwatch, she has developed relationships with legal and medical professionals as well as with several patients and support groups. Prior to writing for Drugwatch, she spent several years as a legal assistant for a personal injury law firm in Orlando. She obtained her English – Technical Communication degree from the University of Central Florida. She is a committee member with the American Medical Writers Association.

Hide Sources

  1. Bronstad, A. (2017, January 20). California lawyers isn’t waiting for MDL to press talc cases in state court.
  2. Ricks, D. (2017, January 17). Doctors find link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. Retrieved from
  3. Boffetta, P. et al. (2017). Genital use of talc and risk of ovarian cancer: a meta-analysis. Retrieved from
  4. Vox, F. (2016). Talcum powder's links to ovarian cancer: What it really means. Retrieved from
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