Personal Care and Services

Published on October 4th, 2009 | by Derek Markham


Talcum Powder Linked to Ovarian Cancer, Needs Warning Label

Frequent use of talcum powder by women increases the risk of ovarian cancer, yet the manufacturers of talc fail to warn women that using the product could be dangerous to their health, says Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, the head of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. Talcum powder, or magnesium silicate, is widely available and used by as many as one out of every five women, either by direct gential application, or as a result of tampons, sanitary pads and diaphragms dusted with it.

Image: Mattman723Talcum Powder

Talcum Powder

Years of advertising have convinced some women to use talcum powder on their genitals to mask alleged odors, even after repeated documentation has been published in medical journals about the link between talc and ovarian cancer. According to Dr. Epstein, “genital talc dusting is a dangerous, but avoidable, cause of ovarian cancer”.

In 1971, a report identified talc particles in ovarian cancers, but Johnson & Johnson’s medical director at the time, Dr. G.Y. Hildick-Smith, contested the findings. An article in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology in 1992 then found that the frequent use of talc on the genital area by women increased the risk of ovarian cancer by a factor of three. In 2003, the journal Anticancer Research published a review of 16 previously published studies involving almost 12,000 women, which again confirmed the link between talcum powder use and a 33% increased risk for ovarian cancer.

“Not surprisingly, the mortality of ovarian cancer in women 65 years of age and older has escalated sharply, especially in black women who have a higher rate of talc use than other races.” – Epstein

Even some in the cosmetics industry acknowledge the dangers of talcum powder. In 2002, the president of the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association admitted that talc is toxic and can reach the human ovaries. Yet the FDA has done nothing to restrict, ban, or require a warning label on products containing talc, even after becoming aware of reports of a link between frequent talcum powder use and increased risk of ovarian cancer.

The Cancer Prevention Coalition submitted a Citizen’s Petition to the FDA in 1994 asking for a warning label on talcum powder intended for genital dusting, but the FDA denied the petition. Another Citizen’s Petition was submitted to the FDA in 2008, endorsed by a number of groups, including the International Association for Humanitarian Medicine, Dr. Faye Williams of the National Congress of Black Women, and the Organic Consumers Association. The Commissioner of the FDA at the time, Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D., again failed to respond to the petition.

“We cited new scientific evidence on the dangers of talc, and requested the FDA to mandate that all talc products be labeled with this type of warning: “Frequent application of talcum powder in the female genital area substantially increases the risk of ovarian cancer.” – Epstein

The hope by the coalition is that the new FDA Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, M.D., will finally take action to protect women from the dangers of using talcum powder on their genitals.

Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common fatal cancer for women, with about 16,000 deaths each year.

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

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