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What is talc?

By Anonymous February 24, 2016 - 10:34am
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I just heard about the recent Johnson & Johnson lawsuit claiming the ingredient talc is linked to ovarian cancer. The woman in the lawsuit, who passed away in Oct 2015 from Ovarian Cancer, used their baby powder and shower to shower feminine hygiene products for 35+ years.

Talc is in so many products women use everyday (makeup, supplements, baby powder, etc). What is the risk for associated to using products with talc in them?

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Hello Anonymous,

Welcome to EmpowHER. That is a very good question and point well made.

To answer your question, I went directly to the American Cancer Society website.

" Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral made up mainly of the elements magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. As a powder, it absorbs moisture well and helps cut down on friction, making it useful for keeping skin dry and helping to prevent rashes. It is widely used in cosmetic products such as baby powder and adult body and facial powders, as well as in a number of other consumer products.

In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled. All talcum products used in homes in the United States have been asbestos-free since the 1970s.

Most concerns about a possible link between talcum powder and cancer have been focused on:

Whether people who have long-term exposure to natural talc fibers at work, such as talc miners, are at higher risk of lung cancer from breathing them in.
Whether women who apply talcum powder regularly in the genital area have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

It has been suggested that talcum powder might cause cancer in the ovaries if the powder particles (applied to the genital area or on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms) were to travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary.

Many studies in women have looked at the possible link between talcum powder and cancer of the ovary. Findings have been mixed, with some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no increase. Many case-control studies have found a small increase in risk. But these types of studies can be biased because they often rely on a person’s memory of talc use many years earlier. Two prospective cohort studies, which would not have the same type of potential bias, have not found an increased risk.

For any individual woman, if there is an increased risk, the overall increase is likely to very be small. Still, talc is widely used in many products, so it is important to determine if the increased risk is real. Research in this area continues."

Anonymous, I would like to add this comment from Eva Chalas, chief of Gynecologic Oncology and Director of Clinical Cancer Services at Winthrop-University Hospital,

" People should be careful about what they apply to their genitals, but in terms of ovarian cancer, the majority of women who develop ovarian do so from other risk factors including – age, genetic predisposition, reproductive issues and whether they were on birth control,"


February 24, 2016 - 10:54am
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