Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

The use of talcum powder is associated with a higher risk of ovarian cancer, which is one of the most common forms of cancer among women. For decades, the makers of talcum powder and other talc-based products have downplayed the health risks associated with talc.

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer forms when tumor cells multiply rapidly on or inside of the ovaries. The cancer does not always start inside the ovaries themselves. Sometimes, ovarian cancer originates in cells near the end of the fallopian tubes and moves into the ovaries over time.

About 1 in 78 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime. It is the 5th leading cause of cancer-related death for women aged 35 to 74.

Although ovarian cancer is serious, it can often be successfully treated if it is caught early. When ovarian cancer is found in its earlier stages, the 5-year survival rate is as high as 90%.

It is important to remember that not all women use talc-based products in their everyday lives. Therefore, talc is not always the cause of a woman’s ovarian cancer. Genetics also play a role. Familial history of breast, ovarian or colon cancer is also associated with a higher risk, as is infertility and exposure to toxic materials or chemicals.

Ovarian Cancer from Talcum Powder

Talc has historically been a popular ingredient in cosmetic and hygiene products such as baby powder and adult body powders. Talc is the softest mineral in the world and, in its natural state, is comprised of the elements magnesium, silicon and oxygen. After talc is mined from rock, it can create mica-like flakes.

Talc particles are created when raw talc flakes are crushed into a fine powder. These powder particles contain microscopic cancerous materials which may harm those who come into contact with them through application or work.

Often, it is this fine talc powder that is used in the manufacturing of household goods, such as talc-based baby powder. It is very common for women to apply talcum powder to their genital area for hygienic purposes. However women who apply talcum powder regularly have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer due to the cancerous materials.

Who Is at Fault?

When it comes to understanding why women who use talc-based products are getting ovarian cancer, the cause cannot be separated from talcum powder corporations.

There is strong scientific evidence dating back over 50 years that supports prolonged exposure to talc as a cause of cancer. However, companies involved in the mining of talc and production of talc-based products have worked hard to conceal risks from the public.

With consumers and regulators left in the dark, companies are free to use talc in their products without a warning of the potential risks. Companies choose to use talc because it is abundant and affordable and, therefore, saves them money over alternatives like cornstarch.

For example, it was recently alleged that Johnson & Johnson® has been actively concealing the harmfulness of talc in its baby powder. In spite of the landmark verdicts that have supported victims’ claims that their cancer was caused by the talc particles in baby powder, Johnson & Johnson continues to stand by the safety of their products.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

There are numerous types of ovarian cancer. The different types of ovarian cancer are classified based on where they originate. There are 3 major areas where ovarian cancer generally forms—the surface epithelium (outermost tissue layer), in germ cells and in stromal cells.

Epithelial Tumors

The surface epithelium consists of cells that cover the ovaries’ outer lining. These tumors will develop to coat the ovaries’ outer surface. A significant portion of epithelial ovarian tumors are actually benign. However, the cancerous epithelial tumors that are malignant carcinomas are some of the most dangerous and aggressive forms of the disease.

Germ Cell Tumors

Germ cells are the cells that eventually become eggs. Ovarian cell tumors that develop from these cells often afflict women who are in their teens or early twenties.

Stromal Tumors

Stromal cells are responsible for releasing hormones such as estrogen. They are also connective tissue cells that bind the ovaries together. Tumors that originate in the stromal cells are considered fairly rare.

What Causes Ovarian Cancer?

The International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC), a department of the World Health Organization (WHO), contends that exposure to talc may be carcinogenic to humans. Cancerous materials sometimes found in talc can enter the vagina, travel up the cervix and fallopian tubes and get stuck in the ovaries where they can form tumors.

Ovarian cancer can also be caused by gene changes, such as inherited genetic mutations or acquired genetic changes. Genetic testing may be able to determine which women are at risk for inherited genetic mutations, such as mutations to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Acquired genetic changes may occur due to exposure to radiation or toxic chemicals. The use of talcum or baby powder can cause cell mutations that lead to ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

Just as with any disease, there are certain risk factors that increase the odds of a woman developing ovarian cancer. It is always important to remember that having a risk factor does not mean that a woman will definitely develop ovarian cancer, just that she is at a higher risk.

Ovarian cancer risk factors include:

  • Aging
  • Alcohol use
  • Familial history of breast, colon or ovarian cancers
  • Fertility treatments such as IVF
  • Genetics
  • Having a first pregnancy after the age of 35
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Taking hormone therapy after menopause
  • Use of talc-based products

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can manifest in many ways. It is vital that women be on the lookout for signs and symptoms, as early detection is what saves lives.

Common symptoms can include:

  • Bloating
  • Heavier or irregular bleeding during periods
  • Inexplicable feelings of “being full”
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating
  • Urinary urgency or frequency

If you are currently experiencing any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.

It cannot be emphasized enough: The earlier ovarian cancer is detected, the higher the odds of a favorable outcome.

Learn More About Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Stages of Ovarian Cancer

The stages of ovarian cancer are largely defined by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) system and the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) system.

The 2 staging systems are very similar in their scaling of ovarian cancer, factoring in things like the size of the tumor, whether the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes and whether the cancer has metastasized to more distant areas.

Stage I

This stage has 4 subsets (A, B, C, D). In stage 1A, the cancer is only in the ovaries or fallopian tubes and has not spread to the nearby lymph nodes.

Stage II

This stage has 3 subsets. In the most basic, the cancer has spread from the ovaries to nearby organs such as the uterus, bladder or colon, but not to lymph nodes or distant areas.

Stage III

This stage has 4 subsets. In the most basic, the cancer has spread to the retroperitoneal lymph nodes but not to distant areas.

Stage IV

There are 2 subsets to this stage. In stage IVA, the cancer cells are found in the fluid around the lungs.

Detection and Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

In detecting and diagnosing ovarian cancer, screening tests such as the transvaginal ultrasound or the CA-125 blood test are used.

Transvaginal ultrasounds use sound waves to find masses on the ovaries, while the CA-125 blood test measures the levels of the CA-125 protein in the blood. High levels of CA-125 are associated with ovarian cancer.

After the images of the tests are available, an oncologist will make the diagnosis.

Treating Ovarian Cancer

Cancer is treated differently depending on the type of cancer, its location and a host of other factors, including a patient’s age and overall health.

When it comes to treating ovarian cancer, individual treatments will vary. Each case of ovarian cancer has its own unique pattern of progression. A patient’s medical team will develop a treatment plan that is tailored to an individual’s specific circumstance.

Conventional treatments for ovarian cancer are below:

Surgery

Once a stage has been determined, “debulking” is often the first step for an ovarian cancer patient. Debulking consists of removing the actual tumors from the ovaries and surrounding tissues.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy consists of high energy X-ray particles that are used to target ovarian cancer cells. Radiation therapy is usually used in conjunction with other treatments.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that are sent directly into the bloodstream to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used to completely kill small amounts of cancer cells or to shrink large tumors for surgical removal later.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is generally used to treat ovarian stromal tumors. It consists of using drugs that block certain hormones in order to fight cancer. Often the drugs reduce or entirely switch off estrogen production in the body.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs that target and kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells undisturbed. Targeted therapy may use drugs such as Bevacizumab or PARP inhibitors.

Support Programs and Services

Several national cancer treatment organizations offer support programs or services for cancer patients. For instance, the American Cancer Society (ACS) offers patient lodging programs and transportation assistance through its Road To Recovery program. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) also offers resources through its local chapters.

Financial Compensation for Ovarian Cancer Caused by Baby Powder

If you believe that you have ovarian cancer caused by talc-based products such as baby powder, the first step should always be to consult your doctor or medical professional. After an ovarian cancer diagnosis, your team of doctors will come up with a medical treatment plan that best suits your individual situation.

Coming up with a plan to treat ovarian cancer is only one part of the battle. The ongoing fight for survival will often leave patients incredibly stressed due to debilitating side effects from certain treatments. Not only that, but insurance bills and other significant costs due to lost wages, medical bills and living expenses will start to add up and create even more stress.

Women were misled to believe that talc-based products were safe. For years, and in many cases for decades, woman used these products on themselves and their babies. In reality, prolonged exposure to talc is not only unsafe, it is unethical. Companies had the duty to warn consumers of cancer risks, and because they did not, thousands of women have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Seeking justice for these wrongs is the only way to hold companies accountable and to stop them from continuing reckless behaviors.

If you have been harmed by talc, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Our caring team of medical professionals and legal advocates is here to help and support all women who have ovarian cancer as a result of prolonged exposure to talc.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us through our live chat, by calling (866) 463-9532 or by filling out the contact form below.

Author:Talcum Powder Cancer Guide Editorial Team
Talcum Powder Cancer Guide Editorial Team

Talcum Powder Cancer Guide helps people understand the risks of talcum powder, what was thought to be a harmless product. The site was inspired by a group of medical experts and lawyers who were concerned about the dangers of talcum powder after lawsuits linked it to cancer. Talcum Powder Cancer Guide’s editorial team uses up-to-date studies and reports to help readers make informed health and legal choices.

Last modified: February 4, 2019

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