Thursday, June 9, 2016
Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer – Even More Complicated?
African-American women historically have reported higher use of feminine hygiene products, including powder, than their white counterparts. According to documents made public in recent lawsuits, in the 1990s, Johnson and Johnson focused their advertising efforts toward African American and Hispanic women. And yet, until now, there have been very little data in this population.
A recently published epidemiology cancer study* from the University of Virginia of more than 1300 African American women from 11 different states reported that regular genital powder use was associated with a greater than 40 % increased risk of ovarian cancer, with a dose-response relationship based on frequency and duration of use. Non-genital powder use also carried an increased risk of more than 30 %, suggesting risk regardless of the route of application.
Although not definitive proof, these kinds of observations give us pause. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2016 more than 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and over 14,000 will die from it. There are no good tests for finding ovarian cancer early. It accounts for about 3% of cancers among women, but causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. If indeed there could be any increased risk of cancer associated with the use of baby powder, especially in African American women, perhaps we should think carefully about our use of these products. At the very least, women should be informed.
* Schildkraut JM, Abbott SE, Alberg AJ, et al. Association between Body Powder and Ovarian Cancer: the African American Cancer Epidemiology Study (AACES). Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. Published on line first May 12, 2016.
Judith Wolf, MD Associate Director, WHEP