Study: No baby pow­der, can­cer link

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - BY LIND­SEY TAN­NER

Fed­eral gov­ern­ment-led re­search finds no strong ev­i­dence link­ing prod­uct with ovar­ian can­cer in large anal­y­sis.

Fed­eral gov­ern­ment-led re­search found no strong ev­i­dence link­ing baby pow­der with ovar­ian can­cer in the largest anal­y­sis to look at the ques­tion.

The find­ings were called “over­all re­as­sur­ing” in an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished Tues­day with the study in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion. The anal­y­sis in­volv­ing 250,000 women isn’t de­fin­i­tive but more con­clu­sive re­search prob­a­bly isn’t fea­si­ble be­cause a dwin­dling num­ber of women use pow­der for per­sonal hy­giene, the ed­i­to­rial said.

Health con­cerns about tal­cum pow­ders have prompted thou­sands of U.S. law­suits by women who claim as­bestos in the pow­der caused their can­cer. Talc is a min­eral sim­i­lar in struc­ture to as­bestos, which is a known hu­man car­cino­gen, and they are some­times ob­tained from the same mines. The cos­met­ics in­dus­try in 1976 agreed to make sure its talc prod­ucts do not con­tain de­tectable amounts of as­bestos.

Smaller stud­ies in­ves­ti­gat­ing a pos­si­ble link be­tween tal­cum pow­der and can­cer have had con­flict­ing re­sults.

The new anal­y­sis pooled re­sults from four long-run­ning stud­ies in­volv­ing 250,000 U.S. women, who were asked pe­ri­od­i­cally about their use of pow­der in the gen­i­tal area. About 40% said they did. Dur­ing 11 years of fol­low-up, 2,168 women de­vel­oped ovar­ian can­cer, with sim­i­lar numbers in those who used pow­ders and those who didn’t.

These kinds of ob­ser­va­tional stud­ies can­not de­ter­mine cause and ef­fect, and the study’s lead au­thor Katie O’Brien said a more rig­or­ous study would re­quire ran­domly as­sign­ing a large group of women to use talc pow­ders over many years and com­par­ing the re­sults with those who didn’t use pow­ders.

The re­searchers found hints of a po­ten­tially small in­creased risk for can­cer for women who had never had a hys­terec­tomy or fal­lop­ian tube-ty­ing surgery. The Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety’s Su­san Gap­stur said that fits with one the­ory for how gen­i­tal use of talc might be risky: With a path­way not blocked by surgery, pow­der par­ti­cles could po­ten­tially travel into the fal­lop­ian tubes and ovaries and cause ir­ri­ta­tion, in­flam­ma­tion and DNA dam­age that could lead to can­cer.

The U.S. law­suits have tar­geted lead­ing baby pow­der maker John­son & John­son.

Al­though sev­eral ju­ries have reached mul­ti­mil­lion­dol­lar ver­dicts against the com­pany, they have been over­turned or ap­pealed. J&J says its pow­der is rou­tinely tested to en­sure there’s no as­bestos.

J&J did re­call a batch of baby pow­der in Oc­to­ber af­ter U.S. gov­ern­ment test­ing found trace amounts of as­bestos in a sin­gle bot­tle. The com­pany paid for more test­ing by out­side labs, which it said found no as­bestos in the bot­tle and other sam­ples.

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