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American Cancer Society: Mixed Findings on Link between Talcum Powder & Ovarian Cancer

The American Cancer Society has weighed in on the suggestion that talcum powder may cause ovarian cancer. In particular, the American Cancer Society provides that “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.” Several studies have examined the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer; however, the American Cancer Society states that the findings have been mixed, “with some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no increase.”

According to the American Cancer Society, the overall increase in risk, if it exists at all, is likely to be small for any individual woman. For example, one study examining the potential link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder combined data from 16 individual studies published before 2003 and found a 30% increase in ovarian cancer risk among talc users. However, the average woman’s risk of ovarian cancer over her lifetime is about 1.4%, so even with a 30% increase, her lifetime risk would be about 1.8%.

However, the research in this area continues. The American Cancer Society states that it is important to determine if the increase risk is real since talc is widely used in many products to absorb moisture and help cut down on friction (i.e., cosmetic products such as baby powder and adult body/facial powders). The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classifies the genital use of talc-based body powder as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on limited evidence from human studies.

 

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