Talc and cancer risk: New study finds evidence of connection

Researchers may have found support for claims talcum powder use can lead to cancer.

It is common knowledge that asbestos can cause serious illness and rare forms of cancer. The medical community has linked this naturally occurring fibrous material to lung cancer, ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining around the organs.

The potential connection between the use of talcum powder and increased risk of cancer is less well known. A recent study may help to increase awareness.

How do victims come into contact with talc?

Victims may encounter talc in many ways. The most notable is likely with the use of baby powder. Other examples include cosmetics and different types of body powders.

What did researchers find when the studied talc?

In the study, published in the prestigious Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the researchers reviewed data from participants who had potential exposure to asbestos using talcum powder.

To better substantiate that talcum powder was the cause of the asbestos exposure, the scientists analyzed tissue samples and reviewed the fibers. This is helpful because fibers that are present in building supplies and insulation materials commonly associated with asbestos exposure look different when magnified compared to those that may be present in contaminated talc used to make makeup or body powders. Based on this data the researchers were able to support the claim the subjects of the study developed cancer due to exposure to talc in cosmetics.

Is this new information?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware that talc is used in cosmetics. The agency also knows talc is often mined from the earth in areas that contain asbestos, making contamination a regular possibility. However, although the agency admits to conducting "ongoing research in this area," it has not confirmed a link between talc use and cancer risk.

This study may provide some of the data the agency needs to help make the connection.

The courts have also had experience with these claims in the past. As discussed in more detail in a previous article, available here, victims have been able to build successful cases against talcum manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson based on claims their baby powder directly contributed to the development of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

What does this mean for victims?

It is important to note the study was relatively small. It involved data collected from thirty individuals. As a result, critics will likely argue it cannot apply to the larger patient population. However, the information presented in this study could serve as an additional piece of evidence to help build a case against the manufacturer or distributor of the product that contributed to the development of cancer.