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The Links Between Talcum Powder, Ovarian Cancer and Asbestos

A lawsuit was filed in St. Louis, Missouri on behalf of a woman named Jaqueline Fox claiming she developed ovarian cancer from using talcum Baby Powder made by drug giant, Johnson & Johnson since the beginning of the 1900s. In February 2016, a St. Louis jury concluded talcum powder contributed to the development of Plaintiff Fox's ovarian cancer and awarded her family a whopping $72 million in damages.

The civil action was actually part of wider claim in the circuit court including almost 60 people. Further, for the second time in three months, a jury has found Johnson & Johnson liable for ovarian cancer potentially caused by genital use of the company's talcum powder products. A St. Louis jury awarded ovarian cancer survivor Gloria Ristesund $55 million on May 2. It's been suggested that Johnson & Johnson either label its talcum powder products as potentially hazardous or pull them from store shelves altogether.

In addition to these, there are more than 1,200 other lawsuits waiting to be litigated and talcum powder is right in the middle.

Talcum Powder and Asbestos

"Talcum powder gets its name from the mineral, Talc. Talc is the softest mineral on earth and is made of silicon, magnesium & oxygen. Talc is mined and it's typically from mineral deposits above ground. Talc deposits are often found close to Tremolite, one type of asbestos which can be frequently found in large quantities in talc. As a powder, talc is able to absorb moisture, odors and reduce friction which ultimately keeps skin dry and rash-free. Talc is widely used in so many common products such from cosmetics to chalk to paint. According to the American Cancer Society, all talcum products used in homes in the United States have been asbestos-free since the 1970s." - Cancer.org

However, in 2015, a California woman won a $13 million lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive after a jury determined she developed mesothelioma from asbestos in the company's Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder. Judith Winkel, 73, told the court she used the popular scented talcum powder from 1961 to 1976. It wasn't until 1973 that federals laws required commercial talcum products to be asbestos-free. Colgate-Palmolive, according to court testimony, was receiving talc supplies until 1985 from three different mines contaminated with asbestos. 

With such news, more research is currently underway in an attempt to determine the causal links between talcum powder use resulting in ovarian cancer and mesothelioma which is caused by exposure asbestos. Of course, the public is fully aware of the health risks and serious physical conditions resulting from exposure to asbestos. Now, there is a push to find the links between talcum powder, ovarian cancer, and asbestos.

Links between Talcum Powder, Ovarian Cancer, and Asbestos

Since 1894, when Johnson & Johnson introduced Baby Powder, it has been used home nurseries, hospitals, and doctors' offices worldwide. Talcum powder is a staple for treating diaper rash in babies. It was also marketed to adult women since the early 1900s to encourage feeling "smooth and dry". Despite this, the dangers of talc concerned the medical and scientific communities for decades. Monographs Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that there is sufficient evidence for a causal association between exposure to asbestos and ovarian cancer and in 2011, Environmental Health Perspectives performed a meta-analysis to quantitatively evaluate this association. Their study supported IARC's conclusion that exposure to asbestos is associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Interestingly, even in some studies which researched talc products without asbestos, still found links between the mineral and ovarian cancer.

Scientists have explored various ways talc might cause cancers in different parts of the body. Most of the concern has focused on whether long-term exposure to talc fibers might cause lung cancer among talc miners, and whether women who routinely applied talcum powder on their genitals had an increased risk of ovarian cancer, according to the American Cancer Society's website. Studies in talc miners exposed to talc containing asbestos have been mixed, but there is no increased lung cancer risk from asbestos-free talc products, the group says. --Scientific American

Nearly five decades ago, British researchers analyzed 13 ovarian tumors and found talc particles "deeply embedded" in 10. The study, published in 1971, was the first to raise the possibility that talcum powder could pose a risk.

It wasn't until 1982 that a causal link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer was established by Harvard University epidemiologist, Dr. Daniel Cramer. Since that time, Dr. Cramer has published many additional studies and his work continues to show a link between talc exposure and developing cancer to put women at a higher risk by 30 percent. Other researchers have found similar evidence and it is theoretically believed the talc mineral comes into contact with ovaries by traveling up a woman's vagina.

The debate continues. A 2003 meta-analysis looking at 16 studies including nearly 12,00 women found an increased risk of ovarian cancer in participants using talc. However, another study of just over 61,570 women in 2014 did not find a link. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classifies genital talc application as "possibly carcinogenic." Still, Sharima Rasanayagam, director of science at the Breast Cancer Fund, points out there is evidence using talc increases risk of ovarian cancer by approximately 30 percent. Rasanayagam isn't nearly alone; in fact, the American Cancer Society's official website states, "Studies of personal use of talcum powder have had mixed results, although there is some suggestion of a possible increase in ovarian cancer risk."

Adding to the mounting concern are about 20 epidemiological studies. These various research analyses have discovered increased rates of ovarian cancer risk in women who use talc as a means of personal genital hygiene. Moreover, a published report in Epidemiology warns that women who apply talcum powder, either directly to their genitals, underwear, or feminine hygiene products are at 33 percent greater risk for developing ovarian cancer.

If you or a family member have experienced symptoms or health conditions as a result of using products containing talcum powder, you must act quickly to learn about your rights. Speak with a legal professional as soon as possible as you might be entitled to compensation.

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