Johnson & Johnson recently lost in a lawsuit filed by a woman who claims to have contracted ovarian cancer after using the company's Baby Powder and Shower To Shower powder for 40 years.
The company seems to have been the target of similar lawsuits claiming is talc-based products cause ovarian cancer, especially after some studies showed that talcum powder can increase the risk of ovarian cancer when applied to the genital area.
However, more studies seem to dispute this claim so one has to ask whether it is really time to stop using talc-based cosmetic products.
Johnson & Johnson Lawsuits
As mentioned earlier, J&J has been the target of thousands of lawsuits claiming its baby powders cause ovarian cancer, but the company has maintained that its products are safe and follows the strict regulations of government authorities.
J&J has issued a statement following its loss, saying the company will dispute the verdict of the Missouri trial.
"We deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by ovarian cancer. We will appeal today's verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder," J&J spokeswoman Carol Goodrich says.
She adds that two similar lawsuits have been dismissed in New Jersey because the plaintiff's scientific experts could not provide strong evidence of their claim.
Even Imery's Talc, J&J's talc supplier that was also held accountable, says that it is confident with its product's safety.
The Dangers Of Talcum Powder
Talcum powder is a finely ground powder from talc minerals, which are mined all over the globe. Some talc naturally contain asbestos, which is a known carcinogen. However, asbestos has been removed from talc used for cosmetic products since the 1970s and studies that link asbestos-free talc to ovarian cancer are inconclusive.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, has released the following statements on talc:
• Talc that contains asbestos is carcinogenic to humans.
• Inhaled talk not containing asbestos is "not classifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans."
• Based on limited evidence, genital use of talc-based body powder is "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
The limited evidence supporting the idea that asbestos-free talc is carcinogenic sprouts from very subjective studies.
According to Cancer Research UK, most studies linking talc usage to ovarian cancer show bias or lack consistency with results.
"Most of the evidence linking using talc with ovarian cancer is based on asking women with and without ovarian cancer if they have used talc ... There are uncertainties around these results. There was no consistent evidence to prove that the more you use talc, the greater your risk of ovarian cancer," the organization explains [PDF].
Should You Stop Using Talcum Powder?
Based on the results of several studies, even if talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer, it will only increase the risk by a third and since ovarian cancer is a rare disease, it will affect even fewer women.
The American Cancer Society suggests that women who are really concerned about the carcinogenic effects of talc should limit or avoid using consumer products that contain it.
However, one must also remember that the main cause of ovarian cancer is still unknown and experts doubt talc's role in the development of the disease since there is too little convincing evidence to prove it.
One woman's body is very different from another, not only physically but pathologically as well. What causes disease for one does not necessarily cause the same disease for another, even when both are exposed to the same things.
In the end, continued usage of talc-based cosmetic products is still a personal choice and how it will affect your body, if at all, does not make it a confirmation for all.