June 8, 2016 — Black women who reported regular use of talcum powder were more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer compared to women who did not use talc, according to a new study.
The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology in May 2016 by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Genital use of talcum powder was associated with a 44% increased risk of ovarian cancer. There was also a 30% increased risk of ovarian cancer from non-genital use of talcum powder.
The risk of cancer increased the longer a woman used talcum powder. Furthermore, women who used talcum powder were also more likely to have upper respiratory conditions, suggesting an inflammatory effect.
Last year, a study in Los Angeles found that 44% of black women reported using talcum powder, compared to 30% of white women and 29% of Hispanic women.
In the 1990s, Johnson & Johnson began targeting black and Hispanic women to boost sales, according to an internal memo made public in a recent lawsuit. That memo also acknowledged growing concerns about ovarian cancer.
The lawsuit ended in a $72 million jury award to the family of Jacqueline Fox, a black woman from Alabama who died of ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder for decades.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 14,500 die from it every year.
Evidence linking talcum powder and cancer has been growing since the 1970s, when particles of talc were found in ovarian tumors. Since then, a meta-analysis of 20 studies suggested a 33% increased risk of ovarian cancer from using talcum powder for genital hygiene.
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