Study Links Talcum Powder and Douches to Ovarian Cancer

A study to be presented at the 27th International Nursing Research Congress on July 23 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa suggests that use of talcum powder in the genital area and douching could increase risk of ovarian cancer.

For the study led by Sandra Cesario, Ph. D., at Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing, Texas Woman’s University, in Houston, 1274 women 18 to 76 years of age completed an online survey. Five hundred fifty-three women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, 91 with another cancer, and 630 women without any cancer, according to

Women who used douches were more likely than those who did not to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Among users, 33 percent developed ovarian cancer, compared to 22.4 percent of non-users. Douching was associated with a 34 percent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Douching is washing or cleaning out the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids. In the United States, about one in four women 15 to 44 years old douche, according to the Office of Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Doctors recommend against douching because it can lead to health problems, including problems getting pregnant. Douching has been linked to vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections.

The study also found that women who use found and increase in ovarian cancer among women who use talcum powder in the genital area: 54.4 percent developed ovarian cancer compared to 39.9 percent among non-users. Genital talcum use was also associated with 76 percent increased risk for ovarian cancer. When both talcum powder and douches were used, the risk for developing ovarian cancer was even greater.

Hundreds of women have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson over the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer and lawsuits continue to move toward trial in a consolidated litigation underway in federal court in Missouri. Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder are popular talcum products. Earlier this year, juries in two talcum powder cases tried in St. Louis returned multimillion-dollar damage awards to the plaintiffs. One award was made to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer in 2015 and the other award was to a cancer survivor. A large portion of both awards consists of punitive damages, which are intended to punish Johnson & Johnson. J&J said it plans to appeal both verdicts.

Though study results of a possible link between talc use and ovarian cancer have been mixed, this new study strengthens the evidence of a link. According to the American Cancer Society, when talcum powder is applied to the genital area, minute talc particles can migrate through the vagina and fallopian tubes into the ovaries and cause inflammation. Inflammation is thought to contribute to tumor formation. Many of the women who have filed talcum powder lawsuits reported decades of regular talcum powder use.






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