January 31, 2017 — Doctors in Manhattan have published a study linking the genital use of talcum powder with an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
The study was published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention on January 11 by Dr. Paolo Boffetta, associate director for cancer prevention at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Tisch Cancer Institute.
“Overall, it is about a 20 percent higher risk for women who say they used talc, compared to women who say they did not use it,” Dr. Paolo Boffetta told Newsday, but he stressed that the study does not prove that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer.
Conclusions were based on a meta-analysis of data from 24 previous studies involving 302,705 women with ovarian cancer. Researchers estimated a 22% increased risk of ovarian cancer for women who use talcum powder on their genital area.
The association “appears to be limited to serous carcinoma,” researchers wrote. Ovarian serous carcinoma is an epithelial cancer that starts in cells lining the ovaries — very similar to mesothelioma, which is an epithelial cancer that starts in cells lining the lungs.
Talcum powder was frequently contaminated with asbestos until the mid-1970s, with products like Cashmere Bouquet containing up to 20% asbestos. Lawsuits have been filed by men and women who developed mesothelioma after breathing asbestos in talcum powder.
Talcum powder may be asbestos-free, but a number of studies have found higher rates of ovarian cancer. In 2003, another meta-analysis of 16 studies involving 12,000 women who used talc genitally estimated a 33% increased risk of ovarian cancer.
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