Most of us women have used talc found in Baby Powder at one point in our lives, or our moms used it on us as children. After all, it smells fresh and clean, and it can keep us dry and feeling cool.
But could it cause cancer? One women thought it could and sued Johnson & Johnson.
Just last month, a Los Angeles jury awarded Eva Echeverria a whopping $417 million in a case against Johnson & Johnson. Echeverria, who is suffering from terminal ovarian cancer, claimed it was caused by Johnson’s Baby Powder, which she used on her inner thighs and perineum for decades.
When Eva, a medical receptionist, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she simply wanted Johnson & Johnson to properly label the baby powder with warnings. She believes the cause was her 50-year regular use of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, and she is concerned because it’s used on many babies daily. In fact, Johnson & Johnson states on its website that this product “has been a staple of baby care rituals and adult skin care and makeup routines worldwide for over a century.”
The debate over talc began decades ago.
In nursing school (60s), we were taught to never use powder on infant or adults. We were taught talc breaks down skin, the powders can be inhaled into lungs… Just not a good idea at all.
In the early 1970s, scientists discovered talc particles in ovarian tumors. In 1982, Harvard researcher Daniel Cramer reported a link between talcum powder use (on sanitary napkins, panties, to prevent chaffing, etc.) and ovarian cancer.
Dr. Cramer is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He says talc – the mineral in talcum powder – can cause ovarian cancer.
“Overall, women may increase their risk in general by about 33 percent by using talc in their hygiene,” Cramer says. His study was followed by several more finding an increased risk of ovarian cancer among regular users of talcum powder.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer upgraded talc-based body powder as associated with ovarian cancer when applied between the legs, observing a “modest but unusually consistent excess in risk” in case-control studies. This marks a change from its 1987 report which found there was inadequate evidence for talc causing cancer in humans.
The American Cancer Society noted that studies produced mixed findings and more research should be done to establish if the risks were “real”.
Even more recent scientific studies continue to confirm a trend that links talc use and epithelial ovarian cancer (the most common type of ovarian cancer). A 2013 analysis led by Harvard University of 8,525 ovarian cancer cases and 9,859 controls concluded that genital talc powder use is associated with a small-to-moderate increase in risk of various sub-types of ovarian cancer. It found that “genital powder use was associated with a similar increased risk of borderline and invasive ovarian cancer overall”.
They noted that, as there are few ovarian cancer risks women can avoid, “avoidance of using powders genitally may be a possible strategy to reduce ovarian cancer incidence”. This would seem a wise precautionary policy.
“We can say that talc is associated with an increased risk [of cancer],” says Shelley Tworoger, a cancer epidemiologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, “And there are biologic mechanisms by which we think that talc could actually impact ovarian cancer. But I would stop short of saying that talc necessarily causes ovarian cancer.” (source)
But she says there’s certainly enough information out there to guide women.
“Why use it?” she says. “I don’t know if I should say this or not, but … why not just be safe and not use it!”
Talc, Cornstarch-Based Powder And Baby’s Lungs
The American Academy of Pediatrics points out that baby powder can cause breathing trouble and serious lung damage for babies if they inhale the particles. (It’s hard to keep powder out of the air when you’re using it.)
This is especially true of talc-based powders, with their ultra small particles. But other powders, including cornstarch-based powders, can also be easily inhaled.
Even small amounts of powder can irritate a baby’s tiny lungs – especially if the baby is at high risk for respiratory illness. Those at high risk include premature babies, babies with congenital heart disease, and babies who’ve had RSV or frequent respiratory illnesses.
I recommend to avoid baby powder altogether. When needed, we used this (100% safe-ingredients) ointment with zinc oxide after each diaper change.
“What goes on your body, goes in your body.” ~unknown
Thanks for reading!