Baby powder is found in many homes. It isn’t just for a baby’s bottom, many women use it to help keep their skin soft and young looking. However, what most people don’t know is that the talc found in baby powder has been linked to ovarian cancer.
Although it has yet to be classified as a carcinogen, Dr. Cramer estimates that talc-based baby powder and body powder are responsible for thousands of cases of ovarian cancer every year in the US.
An association between talcum powder–specifically, its use in the genital area–and ovarian cancer has been found by multiple studies, including one published in 2008. That study found that women who use talcum powder daily could have a 41 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Although some studies have found no link between talc and ovarian cancer, Dr. Cramer suggests this has to do with the length of the study.
“The main problem is that most of the studies don’t show a so-called dose response,” says Dr. Cramer. “That is, the longer you use it and the more times you apply it, the greater the risk.”
Real Life Story
A South Dakota woman, Deane Berg, who developed premenopausal ovarian cancer after 30 years of using Shower to Shower body power, brought suit against Johnson & Johnson (J&J), claiming it failed to warn consumers about the dangers of talc and ovarian cancer.
She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was premenopausal. This is odd considering only 25% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are premenopausal. She also has no family history of the disease.
When Dr. Cramer performed tests, the results were clear.
“We calculated that she had had more than 8,000 applications of talcum powder. Tests showed the talc was in her ovaries, her endometrium and lymph nodes,” he adds.
“You could see her sort of tearing up when this information came out during the trial,” says Dr. Cramer. “Here was this talc in her lymph nodes. It had been there forever. She had no idea this was going on and it was clearly was upsetting to her.”
She won her case.
There is now an active lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson for their failure to warn women of the possible ovarian cancer dangers associated with continuous talc use.
Baby Powder and the Baby
Baby powder isn’t safe for babies either.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against using baby powder because of the risk of respiratory problems. Baby powder can cause breathing trouble and serious lung damage if a baby inhales the particles. And the particles are small enough that it’s hard to keep them out of the air during use. This is especially true of talc-based powders, with their small, easily inhaled particles. (Baby Center)
This is also true or cornstarch based baby powder.
What to Use Instead!
Arrowroot is the perfect alternative for baby powder. Mix ½ cup arrowroot with 1 tsp chamomile. The chamomile will soothe the skin and the arrowroot will keep it dry. This mixture is also safe and effective for adult use.
Henderson, WJ and Joslin, C. (2005, Aug. 23). BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Talc and Carcinoma of the Ovary and Cervix. Abstract. Retrieved from onlinelibrary.wiley.com
Cramer, DW, Welch, WR, Scully, RE and Wojciechowski, CA. (1982, July 15). Ovarian cancer and talc: a case control study. Pub Med. Abstract. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Genital powder use and risk of ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 8,525 cases and 9,859 controls. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Muscat, J. and Huncharek, M. (2013, April 9). National Institutes of Health Public Access. Perineal Talc Use and Ovarian Cancer: A Critical Review. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Huncharke, M., Geschwind, FJ and Kupelnick, B. (2003, March-April). Perineal application of cosmetic talc and risk of invasive epithelial ovarian cancer: a metaanalysis of 11,933 subjects from sixteen observational studies. Abstract. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
The New York Times. (1982, Aug. 12). Talcum Company Calls Study On Cancer Link Inconclusive. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com
American Cancer Society. (2014, May 13). Talcum Powder and Cancer: What is talcum powder? Retrieved from www.cancer.org