Does Baby Powder Really Cause Cancer?

Recent lawsuits against pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson have ordered the company to compensate women millions of dollars. Take the most recent lawsuit for example: on October 27, a jury ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay Deborah Giannecchini more than $70 million after she claimed that years-long use of their product caused her ovarian cancer.

johnson and johnson baby powder
(Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Giannecchini isn't alone in her claims. In fact, thousands of similar cases have been filed against the company .

Previous cases with similar details have been thrown out of court for lack of evidence, while still others ended in verdicts like Giannecchini’s, in which Johnson & Johnson has been required to pay tens of millions to victims’ families.

While Giannecchini’s jury found enough evidence to decide that Johnson & Johnson misled the public by keeping the link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder hidden, scientific experts aren’t sure the link is meaningful.

Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the verdict on the basis that their product is safe.

So what should you believe? Here's everything we know, based on the research.

The claim: Talcum powder contains a cancer-linked mineral.

False. Talc, a natural mineral comprised of magnesium, silicon and oxygen, is often used in powders meant to absorb moisture and reduce friction. In its purest form, talc can also contain the mineral asbestos, which is associated with lung cancer when its fibers are inhaled over an extremely long period of time. But that doesn’t mean there is a relationship between talcum and other various cancer. And in any case, all talcum products on U.S. shelves have been asbestos-free since the 1970s.

baby powder cancer

The claim: Talcum powder is a risk factor for ovarian cancer.

The jury’s still out. It’s hard for researchers to actually test if purified talcum powder causes ovarian cancer, as it would be unethical to ask a group of women to apply a potentially carcinogenic substance to their bodies for decades to see if they develop tumors. And small case studies that ask participants to self-report baby powder use can be unreliable. This is because individual memory can be shoddy, and there is no standard way to measure how much talcum powder was sprinkled on the genital area, as well as other factors could be impacting it.

The few studies that exist are contradictory. In some lab studies, scientists exposed asbestos-free talc to animals, which resulted in an increase in tumor formation in the animal. But other studies have not seen the same result, according to the American Cancer Society.

And smaller studies in which women self-reported talcum use has shown a slight increase in risk. But other studies have shown no increase.

So what should you think?

While the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers genital use of talc-based body powder as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” the evidence that baby powder leads to ovarian cancer is far from conclusive.

If you’re uncomfortable with the possibility of a connection between baby powder and ovarian cancer, but still need something to solve chafing or absorb moisture, there are alternative products on the market. Burt’s Bees Dusting Powder is cornstarch-based, and Johnson’s has a pure cornstarch alternative as well. The Honest Company manufactures its baby powder using a cornstarch and kaolin clay blend instead of talcum.

To read the full article from the Huffington Post, click here!

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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