Two recent verdicts against Johnson & Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, one for $72 million and the other for $55 million have highlighted the connection between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. Talcum or baby powder is often used to absorb moisture and reduce odor. The plaintiffs in these cases were women who used the product on their genital areas.
Research on this topic dates back to 1971, when scientists discovered particles of talc in ovarian and cervical tumors. Further studies confirmed that talcum applied to the genitals can work its way up the genital-urinary tract and into the peritoneal cavity, where the ovaries are. One study of ovarian tumors indicated 75% of them contained talc.
The American Cancer Society analyzed the results of 16 separate studies done before 2003 and concluded there was a 30% increase of the risk of ovarian cancer for women who used talc. (It is important to understand that statistic. It does not mean that 30% of female talc user will get ovarian cancer. It does mean that the overall risk of a woman getting ovarian cancer, which is about 1.4%, is increased by 30%, which brings the risk up to 1.8%.)
A study published in the Journal of Cancer in August, 2015 concludes that women who used talcum on their genitals or on sanitary napkins were three times more likely to develop cancer than women who did not. That study was led by Dr. Daniel W. Cramer of Harvard, who has testified on behalf of the plaintiffs in the above mentioned cases. His study was conducted in 2000 and involved 121,700 female registered nurses aged 30-35 years. Of that group, 371 women were eventually diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancers.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, has classified talcum used in the genital area as a possible carcinogen.
In 1982, the New York Times ran an article suggesting that Johnson & Johnson was by then well aware of the increased risk of ovarian cancer from the use of talc on the genitals.
For its part, Johnson & Johnson is appealing the two Missouri verdicts and is claiming that the research cited against it is unreliable because it employed flawed methodologies. The company claims its product is safe and points to studies that it says absolve talc of any role in causing cancer.
If you or a loved one has been a long-time user of talcum or baby powder and received a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, contact us. You may be entitled to compensation.