Re­search finds talc doesn’t cause cancer; ju­ries dis­agree

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Linda A. John­son

Two law­suits ended in jury ver­dicts worth $127 mil­lion. Two oth­ers were tossed out by a judge who said there wasn’t re­li­able ev­i­dence that the talc in John­son & John­son’s iconic baby pow­der causes ovar­ian cancer. So who’s right? And is baby pow­der safe?

Most re­search finds no link or a weak one be­tween ovar­ian cancer and us­ing baby pow­der for fem­i­nine hy­giene, a prac­tice gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­can moth­ers have passed on to their daugh­ters. Most ma­jor health groups have de­clared talc harm­less. John­son & John­son, whose baby pow­der dom­i­nates the mar­ket, says it’s per­fectly safe.

Yet some 2,000 women have sued, and lawyers are re­view­ing thou­sands of other po­ten­tial cases, most gen­er­ated by ads tout­ing the two big ver­dicts. Mean­while, jury se­lec­tion in the next trial be­gan Mon­day.

A look at the is­sue: it causes cancer, while com­par­ing them to a group who didn’t use it.

While ovar­ian cancer is of­ten fa­tal, it’s rel­a­tively rare. It ac­counts for only about 22,000 of the 1.7 mil­lion new cases of cancer ex­pected to be di­ag­nosed in the United States this year.

Fac­tors that are known to in­crease a women’s risk of ovar­ian cancer in­clude age, obe­sity, use of es­tro­gen ther­apy af­ter menopause, not hav­ing any chil­dren, cer­tain ge­netic mu­ta­tions and per­sonal or fam­ily his­tory of breast or ovar­ian cancer. one with­out, and asks about past ex­po­sures that might be fac­tors. But peo­ple have trou­ble re­mem­ber­ing de­tails years later.

The sec­ond ap­proach fol­lows a large group of peo­ple. It as­sesses their health at the start and fol­lows them for years, record­ing any ill­nesses while track­ing pos­si­ble in­flu­ences such as diet and use of med­i­ca­tion, al­co­hol or other substances. Sci­en­tists gen­er­ally find these “prospec­tive” stud­ies most re­li­able. cancer.

One large study pub­lished in June that fol­lowed 51,000 sis­ters of breast cancer pa­tients found gen­i­tal talc users had a re­duced risk of ovar­ian cancer, 27 per­cent lower than in nonusers. An anal­y­sis of two huge, long-run­ning U.S. stud­ies, the Women’s Health Ini­tia­tive and the Nurses’ Health Study, showed no in­creased risk of ovar­ian cancer in talc users.


Talc, a min­eral mined from soil, has been widely used in cos­met­ics and other per­sonal care prod­ucts to ab­sorb mois­ture since at least 1894, when John­son’s Baby Pow­der was launched.

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