Does Talcum Powder Cause Cancer?
Yes. Found in consumer products such as talcum and baby powders, feminine hygiene powder, cosmetics and some lotions, talc has been identified by researchers at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a probable carcinogen to humans. Talc deposits may be laced with hazardous, cancer-causing materials, such as asbestos. This means that prolonged and/or regular exposure to talc could greatly increase your risk of developing cancer.
As of now, the main concerns over talc and cancer are the mineral’s associations with ovarian and lung cancer. Women who use talc-based baby powder regularly for hygienic purposes may be at an increased risk for ovarian cancer. This is because many women apply talc-based powders to their genital area for sanitary purposes.
Over a long period of time, cancerous materials found in talc may enter the vagina and travel up the cervix and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. They can then become lodged in the ovaries and encourage the growth of tumors.
Scientific research dating back to the 1970s has supported the relationship between talc and cancer, as have a number of recent lawsuits alleging that cancerous materials in talcum powder caused ovarian cancer.
It is for these reasons that many medical professionals advocate for the avoidance of all products that include talc, encouraging consumers to use cornstarch-based products instead.
Who Is at Risk?
Generally speaking, individuals who regularly breathe talc particles into their lungs or spread talcum powder onto their bodies are at higher risk of developing cancer.
While some talc-based cancers such as ovarian cancer or uterine cancer are associated with women who have applied talcum powder to their genital areas, men who work as talc miners or millers also increase their risk for cancer.
A study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that men who breathed in talc particles working at a mine had significantly higher mortality rates due to an increase in lung cancer.
Women who regularly use talc-based powder products for cosmetic reasons are also at higher risk of developing cancer.
Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
While talc itself is not dangerous, research shows that cancerous materials may be found in talcum powder. These materials may cause ovarian cancer if they travel up the cervix and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. As of now, significant research is still being conducted on the connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
If you have used talcum powder, baby powder or other talc-based feminine hygiene products in the past, it is important to understand the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
If you believe that you may have ovarian cancer, you should talk to a medical professional immediately. The earlier the cancer is detected, the higher the odds of survival and recovery.
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
Knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer can help you detect the disease early and get proper medical care.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Back pain
- Change in menstrual cycles, such as heavier bleeding than normal
- Inexplicably “feeling full”
- Need to urinate frequently
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating
- Urgent need to urinate
- Weight loss with stomach swelling
Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is particularly dangerous because it might not display any physical symptoms until it reaches the later stages of disease. Women who believe they may have ovarian cancer are often referred to a specialist, such as a gynecologic oncologist, for several tests.
Imaging tests such as ultrasounds or computed tomography (CT) scans can help to produce images of the body that indicate the development of tumor growth.
Other diagnostic options include blood tests, where doctors look for the presence of the CA 125 protein—the protein typically associated with ovarian cancer. Women with higher levels of CA 125 in their blood may have ovarian cancer.
In some cases, a laparoscopy will be conducted, where doctors look at the ovaries and pelvis through a tube that is inserted through a small cut in the lower abdomen. This tube relays a video image to a doctor who can determine if or how far the cancer has spread.
Ovarian Cancer Statistics
When it comes to ovarian cancer, about 1 in 78 women in the United States will be diagnosed at some point in their lifetimes. Ovarian cancer is ranked 5th in cancer deaths among women and is considered the most deadly reproductive system cancer.
Ovarian cancer is a disease that mostly affects postmenopausal women. Almost half of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are over the age of 63.
When ovarian cancer is detected within the first 2 stages of the disease (I or II), the rate of survival can be as high as 90% over a 5-year period. The rate of survival drops significantly if the disease is not caught until stages III or IV, which indicate that it has spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body.
Data show that Caucasian women are more likely than African American women to develop ovarian cancer.
Risk factors for ovarian cancer include in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, smoking, family history of ovarian or breast cancer and exposure to talc-based products. Because ovarian cancer symptoms often do not present until the later stages of the disease, only 19% of women receive an early diagnosis.
Other Types of Talcum Powder Cancer
Prolonged exposure to talc, either through inhalation or through the use of talcum powder on the body can lead to the development of various types of cancer.
Workers who mine or mill talc may inhale loose talc particles and develop lung cancer. Women who use talc-based powder products on their genitals may develop ovarian or uterine cancer. In rarer cases, talcum powder use has also been linked to stomach cancer.
Tumors caused by talc-based products can metastasize and spread to other areas of the body. Ovarian cancer, for example, has been known to spread to the bladder and, in its later stages, to the lungs. The cancers most commonly associated with talc are listed below.
Ovarian cancer results from the growth of tumors on the ovaries. In some cases, ovarian cancer begins in the fallopian tubes and then quickly works its way to the ovaries.
Experts sometimes refer to ovarian cancer as a “silent killer” because women often experience few symptoms until the disease has progressed to its later stages.
If ovarian cancer is detected in its early stages, the 5-year survival rate can be as high as 90%. However, if the cancer is not found until the later stages, the survival rate drops significantly.
Symptoms include stomach pains, irregular bleeding and the urgent and/or frequent need to urinate.
Sometimes detected through chronic, intense coughing, chest pain or hoarseness, lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women.
Talc can cause lung cancer when stray talc particles are inhaled and become stuck in the lungs, where they can foster tumor growth.
Like ovarian cancer, if lung cancer is detected in its earliest stage, the survival rate is higher. Unlike ovarian cancer, however, the survival rate at this stage is approximately 50%. Lung cancer survival rates drop dramatically when the cancer is not found until stage 2 or 3.
Uterine cancer and stomach cancer are also associated with talcum powder and other talc-based products, though they are far less common than ovarian and lung cancer.
Uterine cancer symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge, painful urination or an enlarged uterus. Individuals with stomach cancer may experience heartburn, nausea, loss of appetite and trouble swallowing.
Although these cancers are not as prevalent, they are nonetheless serious risks to consider when weighing the use of talcum powder or a talc-based product.
Reducing Your Exposure to Talcum Powder
Research has found that talcum powder use may increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer, specifically among women who apply the powder to their genital area. More conclusive research is needed to verify the link, but each year the connection grows clearer and clearer.
Until more information is available, however, women who are worried about using talcum or baby powders may want to avoid or limit their use.
There are several companies that offer talc-free baby powders, including:
- Natural Powder®
- Nature’s Baby®
- California Baby®
- Honest Company®
- Burt’s Bees® Baby Dusting Powder
Most of these powders substitute talc for cornstarch, a safer alternative.
Getting a Medical Evaluation
Many cancer researchers believe it is best to avoid talcum powder products altogether or to limit their use whenever possible.
If you believe you have developed ovarian cancer due to using talcum powder, it is important to contact a doctor immediately. A doctor can conduct screenings and refer you to specialists who will determine whether or not you have ovarian cancer. Finding the disease early is critical in improving the odds of a lasting recovery.
If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and the cause is found to be talc, you may be eligible for financial compensation that can pay for your medical treatments, living expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation to see if you may be eligible to receive compensation.