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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.

Diagnosed with cancer after talcum powder use? Get a Free Case Review

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.

Michelle Llamas, Senior Content Writer
Written By Michelle Llamas Senior Writer

Michelle Llamas has been writing articles and producing podcasts about drugs, medical devices and the FDA for nearly a decade. She focuses on various medical conditions, health policy, COVID-19, LGBTQ health, mental health and women’s health issues. Michelle collaborates with experts, including board-certified doctors, patients and advocates, to provide trusted health information to the public. Some of her qualifications include:

  • Member of American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and former Engage Committee and Membership Committee member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in The Lancet, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and the Journal for Palliative Medicine

4 Cited Research Articles writers follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, court records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and interviews with qualified experts. Review our editorial policy to learn more about our process for producing accurate, current and balanced content.

  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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