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Will Talcum Powder Increase My Risk of Ovarian Cancer?

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Talcum powder is a commonly used hygiene product for women that absorbs moisture and reduces friction between the thighs. Recent studies have demonstrated that powder products can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. The increased risk is small and most of these studies are biased. However, due to the potential risk, obstetrician-gynecologists do not recommend use of talcum powder products.

What is in Baby Powder?

Baby powder or talcum powder is made from a clay mineral called talc, which can also be mixed with cornstarch. In its raw form, some talc can contains asbestos, a known carcinogen that causes cancer. While talcum powders are tested by the Food and Drug Administration, traces of asbestos have been reported.

How Might it Cause Ovarian Cancer?

For many women from the Baby Boomer generation, dusting baby powder on their undergarments was common practice. This was done as away to stay dry and eliminate vaginal odor. It has been theorized that powder particles sprinkled on the genital region can travel through the uterus to the ovaries and cause ovarian cancer. This theory is controversial but recent studies demonstrated that women who use talcum powder are more likely to develop ovarian cancer. These findings have not been supported in other studies.

In recent news

On Oct. 18, 2019, Johnson & Johnson issued a voluntary recall for a single lot of their baby powder. The Food and Drug Administration tested a sample from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer and found subtrace levels of asbestos. While the amount of asbestos contaminant was minimal, the company decided to pull Lot #22318RB from the market and are investigating the matter. They have also advised the public to discontinue the use of the product if it came from this lot number.

What To Do Now?

The association between talcum powder and ovarian cancer is controversial and needs to be further studied. Currently, there is no medical agreement that talc powder cause ovarian cancer, but due to the potential risk, obstetrician-gynecologists do not recommend the use of products containing talc powder.

Learn more about cancer screenings at Ochnser. 

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