Science, talcum powder and cancer

The science community has not fully committed to the definitive link between women’s talcum powder usage and ovarian and uterine cancers. But some oncology researchers — and several recent juries — have determined that a causal link exists.

The results of one such study appeared in an issue of the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention journal. The scientists discovered that intimate use of talcum powder causes a 24 percent uptick of risk for uterine cancer.

Why this matters

Until very recently, talcum powder was marketed as a hygiene product for females from the cradle to the grave. Used to powder diapered-babies’ bottoms and as after-shower applications for adults, this common grooming and hygiene product was a staple in most 20th century American households.

Now, after decades of daily usage, women all over the United States are being diagnosed with certain female cancers.

Talc similar to asbestos

Before scientists discovered the link between working with or near asbestos with workers’ mesothelioma diagnoses, the toxic material was used daily in the industrial and building industries. Talc is derived from the mineral magnesium silicate that is chemically similar to asbestos.

Tiny splinters of the mineral can attach to people’s lungs. Lab tests with animals after forced talc inhalation showed tumor development.

Over 2 decades of data studied

From 1982 to 2004, researchers monitored 66,028 female nurses’ health. They discovered that 599 were diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

Researchers then focused on the nurses’ hygiene routines. Those who had used talc even once in their genital area had enhanced their risk of developing the cancer by 21 percent compared to those who hadn’t used it.

In fact, the greater the usage, the higher the risk factor rose. The strongest link presented in postmenopausal women.

As noted by the authors: ‘‘Several studies have reported a positive association between perineal use of talcum powder among adult women and ovarian cancer risk. Our results suggest that perineal talcum powder use increases the risk of endometrial cancer, particularly among postmenopausal women.”

It should be noted that as far back as the 1970s, a medical journal noted that talc particles turned up in 75 percent of treated ovarian tumors.

Industry deception

It can be shown that manufacturers and industry insiders knew or should have known of the link between talc and cancer diagnoses. That these manufacturing behemoths continue to market a carcinogenic product to everyone from newborn babies to old ladies is both negligent and reprehensible.