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Health Update 2016: African American Ovarian Cancers Due to Talc Baby Powder Use

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In the last few months, numerous reports have surfaced about the health and safety risks associated with baby powders containing talc, particularly the risk of women developing ovarian cancer.

On May 12, 2016, a major study impacting African American women who used talc baby powder was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention Journal—the largest study ever of ovarian cancer in women of color, including their talcbaby powder use. The article was entitled “Association Between Baby Powder Use and Ovarian Cancer:  The African-American Cancer Epidemiology Study” (AACES) with the lead author being Joellen M. Schildkraut along with Abbott and Alberg, et al.

Related Articles and Videos on the Shocking Talc Powder-Ovarian Cancer Connection:

The study included over 1,000 participants spread out across eleven states.  Two of the most widely sold talc baby powder products marketed to women are Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, another J & J baby powder. J & J recently sold off the North American marketing rights to Shower-to-Shower to a different pharmaceutical company.  Other less popular, but widely distributed, talc baby powders are sold by major drug store chains. As of this article’s publication date, none of the above referenced products have added warning labels to their talc products about ovarian cancer risks.

Below, I summarize the significance of this new major study about the use of talc powder by African-American females.

It is important to note that this study was in the field of epidemiology comprising professional scientists who study statistical information. The study was not funded by any industry but instead was based on multiple grants, including a grant from the National Cancer Institute and NIH.

In 2014, the study was first announced in a peer-reviewed journal article explaining that African-American women would be selected in eleven states, and the research was to be conducted through hospitals in those areas. Interviews were conducted, and then test subjects and case-control persons were selected and this became the largest epithelial ovarian cancer case controlled study of African-American women ever done in the world.   The results were peer reviewed before being published.

The study found that African-American users of genital talc baby powder had a greater increased risk of contracting epithelial ovarian cancer but that women who only used non-genital baby powder also had the increased risks.

Those women who applied baby powder to their genital region for a prolonged time period suffered an increased risk of ovarian cancer. The authors examined the non-genital talc baby powder use versus genital use and noted the following:

“In the largest EOC case-control study in AA women to date, we observed a positive association between regular use of powder and epithelial ovarian cancer regardless of the route of application. Users of genital powder were shown to have greater than a 40% increased risk of…compared to an increased risk of more than 30% among those who used only non-genital powder.”

In other words, there was increased risk of ovarian cancer, even with use of baby powder not applied to the genitals, such as with use on babies. The actual key conclusions are included below:

“In summary, we found that the application of genital powder is associated with serous and non-serous epithelial ovarian cancer in African American women, a novel observation in this population that is consistent with some large studies in whites. Our data are consistent with the notion that localized chronic inflammation in the ovary caused by exposure to genital powder contributes to the development of epithelial ovarian cancer.”

The report also states that the use of baby powder is an especially important “modifiable risk factor” for ovarian cancer in African-American women and I would urge women to examine the product they buy if they use a talc based baby powder to switch to a corn starch based product right away. 


Richard N. Shapiro is a trial attorney with Shapiro, Appleton & Duffan law firm based in Virginia Beach, VA. His firm is currently investigating and accepting talc powder ovarian cancer cases.