On the heels of a $110 million verdict for a Tennessee woman who claimed that Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products caused her ovarian cancer, more and more individuals are researching the connection of such talc-based products to this type of female cancer that is nearly always fatal.
First of all, it’s important to know that talc – the main ingredient in talcum powders of all varieties – is a mineral. It’s comprised of tiny bits of silicon, oxygen, and magnesium, a combination which serves to absorb moisture.
In its natural form, talc generally contains asbestos as well as those other minerals.
The first connection between talc and cancer was seen among talc miners in the United States and elsewhere around the world.
Studies examining the work history and subsequent cancer diagnoses of those who work/worked in the talc mines of the northern United States (upstate New York, Michigan, Minnesota) showed a significantly increased rate of mesothelioma – asbestos-caused cancer – among talc miners.
Experts were also able to identify cases of secondhand exposure to talc that resulted in a mesothelioma diagnosis.
A compilation of several studies led scientists to calculate that these mine workers are 11 times more likely than the average American to develop asbestos-caused diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis.
As a result of these numbers, more attention is being brought to the plight of these hard-working men and women.
But what about talcum powder and ovarian cancer? Most researchers say they can only hypothesize on the connection at this point, but most studies lead researchers to believe that the talc reaches the ovaries by traveling up the vagina and through the uterus and fallopian tubes.
Once it reaches the ovaries, it is likely to cause inflammation.
Dr. Adetunji Toriola, a Washington University epidemiologist at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, says he believes such a scenario is scientifically plausible.
“We know that inflammation increases ovarian cancer risk. We know talcum powder causes inflammation. The question is, does talc cause cancer by causing inflammation in the ovaries?” Toriola stated in an article for Scientific American Magazine.
He and others in his field believe there’s a significant possibility that talc is indeed the culprit when it comes to the connection between extensive talcum powder use in the genital area and a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
And this isn’t anything new.
The risk first came to light in 1982 via a Harvard University study. Dr. Daniel Cramer, who penned the first report on the talcum powder ovarian cancer connection, believes that talc use can increase the possibility of developing ovarian cancer by as much as a whopping thirty percent!
Some say the studies are flawed and the increased risk much more modest. Unfortunately, it would be difficult to do a more comprehensive study without deliberately exposing women to the potentially cancer-causing agent.
Still, courts are convinced that the connection is real. Johnson & Johnson suffered three losses in a row in recent ovarian cancer-talc exposure cases, with juries awarding victims large sums of money – $55, $70, and $72 million – convinced that the threat to their health from talcum powder was very real.