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The relationship between talcum powder and cancer

Sometimes it seems as if half the products on the marketplace can cause cancer. With others, such as coffee, there appear to be both benefits and potential dangers with its consumption.

It can thus be quite challenging to determine whether a product you know and love contains carcinogens that can put your health and life at risk. However, when it comes to talcum powder and certain types of cancer, many experts urge caution if not outright avoidance.

Juries siding with consumers

Some jurors have not been swayed by manufacturers' arguments that female plaintiffs' ovarian cancer is caused by something other than the talcum powder they have used for decades — if not lifetimes.

Many women were dusted with a light coating of talcum powder as infants to keep them drier. As they grew up, applying talcum powder became part of their after-bath rituals, much like applying moisturizer and deodorant.

When these same women with no other obvious risks began being diagnosed decades later with ovarian cancer, researchers started delving deeper into the connection between the women's talcum powder use and their cancer.

How talc became suspect

Back in the 1970s, researchers found something unusual in ovarian tumors that had been excised from patients. The unusual finding was talc particles, and a decade later, one Harvard researcher offered up a causative link between talcum powder usage and ovarian cancer diagnoses.

His continued research on the linkage led to his advising Johnson & Johnson (J&J), a major talcum powder manufacturer and supplier, to place a warning on their products. Unfortunately, that never occurred, and women who use(d) talc continue to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Role is not yet clear

According to the American Cancer Society, the studies about the link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder use have produced mixed results, with some women appearing to have a slightly higher risk.

But the fact that a definitive link has not been determined does not indicate that none exists. In fact, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to research the possible cause and effect.

Talc is composed of silicon, magnesium, hydrogen and oxygen. Today's pediatricians actively discourage using talcum powder on babies. They claim that talc particles might cause breathing problems for the babies.

There is much that remains unknown about talcum powder and cancer. But if you suspect that your use of the product led to a cancer diagnosis, you may want to learn more about any potential legal options you might have.

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