Talcum powder 'could cause ovarian cancer', more experts warn

A report by the Environment and Climate Change Canada has been looking at the potentially damaging effects of inhaling the substance as well as applying it to the skin.

It cites 29 recent studies – 21 of which experts claim "have consistently reported a positive association with ovarian cancer and perineal (genital area) talc exposure".

The paper has looked at baby, body, face and foot talc powers, and also says that inhaling the stuff can cause respiratory issues like fibrosis or scarring of the lungs.

Talcum powder is made from talc, which is a clay mineral composed of silicon, magnesium and oxygen.

People have taken advantage of its soft and absorbent properties since the time of the ancient Egyptians.

In talc’s most natural form, it contains asbestos, which is known to cause cancer in the lungs when inhaled, but all talcum products in the US have been asbestos-free since the 1970s.

Now talc is used for a variety of reasons: as a baby powder, in chewing gum and sweets, and even in olive oil.

The Canadian Cancer Society has said that it causes a "possible risk" of developing ovarian cancer.

This new report comes after talc powder manufacturer Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay £3.6 billion back in July to 22 women who said they developed ovarian cancer after using baby powder.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer

Around 7,000 women each year are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, making it one of the most common types of cancer in women.

Many symptoms of ovarian cancer are hard to recognise as they are similar to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Others have mistakenly thought that the swelling is a result of pregnancy.

Things to look out for include:

  • A swollen stomach
  • Feeling bloated constantly
  • Needing to urinate frequently
  • Discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area
  • Feeling full quickly when eating

In August 2017, the company was ordered to pay more than £323 million to Eve Echeverria, 64, who said she began using the powder aged 11. She now has terminal cancer.

More than £85 million was awarded to Lois Slemp, 62, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 and blames her illness on 40 years of using the talcum powder.

The disease spread to her liver and she was too ill to attend the trial.

Johnson & Johnson has always refuted the claim that its talcum powder is unsafe.

But the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies genital use of talc as “possibly carcinogenic”.

And some studies have found that women who regularly use talc on their genital area face up to a 40 per cent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Sophia Lowes, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Scientists are studying the link between women using talcum powder on their genitals and ovarian cancer and so far the evidence doesn’t give a clear picture.
“If there were a link, any increase in risk would be fairly small, and as ovarian cancer is a relatively rare disease, overall women who use talc would still have a low chance of developing the disease. More research is needed to work out what role, if any, talc use plays in ovarian cancer.”

UK-based ovarian cancer charity, Ovacome said at the time that there have been concerns for some years that using talcum powder on the genital area may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, but says this has not been proved by research and more studies are needed.



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