Research finds talc doesn’t cause cancer; juries disagree
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.