Baby powder, while seemingly harmless, has links to ovarian cancer. And since 2013, multiple lawsuits have awarded compensation to women for actual and punitive damages. Most recently, Deborah Giannecchini won a $70 million settlement for damages. But when it comes to baby powder and cancer, recent research studies show that not all uses are equally dangerous.
Baby Powder and Cancer: Taking A Closer Look at the Risk Factors
Multiple risk factors may promote the growth of ovarian cancer. Genetics, obesity, diet, and alcohol use can all influence your risk. But since the 1970s, researchers linked baby powder to cancer mainly after regular peritoneal use.
Here are a few steps to take to determine whether or not talc played a role in your cancer diagnosis:
Step 1: Get Ovarian or Cervical Tumors Biopsied to Confirm the Baby Powder and Cancer Link
Ask your oncologist to test cancerous tissue/tumor samples for talc particles. If there are talc particles in your tissue or tumor, baby powder’s likely to blame — at least partially. Researchers’ first clue about the relationship between baby powder and cancer came from talc embedded in biopsied tumors. The first research study hypothesizing whether or not baby powder and cancer were linked happened back in 1971, at a laboratory in Wales. Researchers dissected ovarian and cervical tumors and found particles of talc embedded within 75% of them. If no tumor samples tested contain talc particles, then you can safely assume baby powder didn’t play a role in your cancer diagnosis.
Step 2: Read Your Labels and Choose Cornstarch Over Talc
Not all baby powder products cause harm. Cornstarch-based powder has no known links to cancer. This includes using baby powder with cornstarch in the genital area. And although Johnson & Johnson has come under fire in recent lawsuits, their products are not necessarily all harmful. Only Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products are implicated in the studies concerning baby powder and cancer. While J&J sold its Shower to Shower line to Valeant in 2012, it still manufactures Johnson’s Baby Powder in talc and cornstarch varieties. Carefully read the label to verify whether you’re purchasing a talc-based product or one that uses cornstarch instead!
Step 3: Understand Your Diagnosis
While talcum powder has links mainly to ovarian cancer, other types are possible. If someone inhales talcum powder, it can lead to talcosis. This condition begins with a dry cough and chronic dyspnea (difficulty breathing). It can eventually progress to acute or chronic lung irritation. In some cases, it can develop into lung cancer. And while baby powder and cancer studies primarily focus on ovarian varieties, perineal talc use is also correlated with increased risk for cervical cancer.
Step 4: Know All the Risk Factors
Other risk factors come into play when determining the relationship between baby powder and cancer. A recent study looked at women who use baby powder perineally. It found that postmenopausal women who used baby powder more than 3,600 times (10+ years) are most at risk. These women also met certain other characteristics. But there was a definite link between talc and cancer. The study reads, “Any perineal talc use was associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer.” Since J&J markets many talc-based body powders to women for feminine hygiene purposes, they face greater increased risks. Gymnasts who frequently dust their hands with talc are at higher risk for inhaling it and developing lung problems down the road.
Time is another risk factor when it comes to using talc-based products. In most cases, you don’t need to worry if your parents sprinkled baby powder with talc in your diapers as a baby. Among the plaintiffs that successfully sued J&J in court and won multimillion-dollar settlements, all testified they used the product for decades prior to their diagnosis. A St. Louis jury awarded 62-year-old Lois Slemp $110 million last year for her ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2012. Virginia native Slemp testified she used J&J’s Shower to Shower products regularly for 40 years prior to her diagnosis. During Slemp’s trial, expert testimony revealed that various J&J baby and body powder samples tested positive for asbestos contamination. Internal documents unsealed in court showed that J&J execs knew about the talc-cancer association. Despite this evidence, the company refuses to add a cancer risk warning label to powder products that contain talc.
Holding Companies Responsible for Downplaying Baby Powder and Cancer Risks
While occasional use of talcum powder most likely does not cause ovarian cancer, continued use can. Understanding the link between baby powder and cancer can help many consumers potentially avoid unnecessary risks.
If you or a loved one developed ovarian cancer after prolonged talcum powder use, you may qualify for compensation. Juries found J&J negligent for not warning consumers about baby powder and cancer risks. Fill out your free talcum powder claim review form today to see if you may have a case.