What You Should Know About Talcum Powder and the Risk for Ovarian Cancer

Many women have grown up using talcum powder products, such as Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, but most have not been aware that these seemingly harmless and ever-present cosmetics could be posing a risk to their health. However, in 2013 and 2016, two families won legal claims against Johnson & Johnson, claiming that they failed to warn consumers that the use of their Baby Powder could increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Now, numerous lawsuits have been filed on behalf of thousands of women across the United States, and many more are expected to follow. So what is the problem, and are you or your loved ones potentially at risk? Here’s what you need to know.

Why Are Women Potentially at Risk When Using Talcum Powder Products?

Often following the advice of their mothers and grandmothers, many women have used “a sprinkle a day” in the genital area for freshness and comfort. Talcum powder also has a history of use in other body products, such as diaphragms, tampons, and condoms. However, over the last few decades, a Talcum Powder in a Woman's Open Handgrowing body of research has indicated that there may be a link between ovarian cancer and long-term use of talc products in the female genital area.

Although the cause is still being investigated, it is believed that talc particles can enter the female reproductive system and even remain in the body for many years. The particles may create inflammation and cell damage in the ovarian tissues that can eventually lead to malignancy. As a more familiar example, this is thought to be somewhat similar to the way that asbestos can cause lung cancer when inhaled. In fact, in the first major study showing a link between talc and ovarian cancer, the researchers stated that they found talc particles “embedded” in ovarian tumors.  

Ovarian cancer is often fatal, and the symptoms are often overlooked until the cancer has progressed significantly. Even when ovarian cancer goes into remission, the woman affected generally has undergone long-term and costly treatments, as well as major changes in daily life. This is why it is important that women be informed about any potential ovarian cancer risks before using a product. Unfortunately, talcum powder has been used cosmetically for decades and is associated with use in babies, meaning that many women haven’t even considered that their daily powder might be a cancer risk.

The Research on Talcum Powder’s Ovarian Cancer Risk

The first study potentially linking talcum powder use to a higher risk of ovarian cancer was performed over 45 years ago. Since then, numerous epidemiological studies have shown that the long-term use of talcum powder in the female genital area is associated with about a thirty-percent increase in ovarian cancer risk. However, there have been a few studies—some financed by Johnson & Johnson or its associates—that show more mixed results. The research is still ongoing, and the cause of the increased risk is still in question.    

However, while more research is clearly still needed, the research that exists provides significant evidence of a potential association between talc and ovarian cancer. Because an association of some kind seems very likely, many experts have already called for Johnson & Johnson to include warning statements about the potential link. 

Why Johnson & Johnson Is Being Held Responsible

In the claims against the company that have succeeded, Johnson & Johnson was found negligent because the company allegedly:

  • Knew about the potential link. Victims say that Johnson & Johnson knew about the studies and the cancer risk for decades. In at least one case, internal company documents were shown that implied that the company was aware of the research and took action to hide the evidence and avoid responsibility.
  • Failed to warn consumers. The first study that found a potential association between cancer and talcum powder was performed in 1971. Studies into the link have continued through the ‘80s, ‘90s, and even the present day. Victims claim that Johnson & Johnson should have warned consumers of the risk when it became clear that a link was likely—and had plenty of time to do so.

The cases against Johnson & Johnson have also raised some questions about the company’s choices to market the Johnson’s Baby Powder product heavily to adults, particularly to adult African-American and Hispanic women.

Have You Developed Ovarian Cancer After Using Talcum Powder?

Johnson & Johnson maintains that its talc products are safe, and the company has been fighting the increasing number of claims to the contrary from victims and their families. The company has also said it plans to appeal the awards in several multimillion-dollar cases that have already resolved. All of these factors combined mean that individuals are likely to have a very difficult time sorting out their rights and successfully taking action on their own. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson continues to manufacture and market these potentially dangerous talc products.

Ultimately, large companies have a duty to inform their customers of the potential dangers of their products. When they fail to inform consumers of known risks, they can—and should—be held responsible for the deaths and injuries that result. If you believe that you or a family member may have developed ovarian cancer linked to the use of talc-containing cosmetic products, the best thing you can do right now is to talk about your situation and your case with an attorney who is familiar with talcum powder lawsuits. At VB Attorneys, we are currently investigating cases of ovarian cancer caused by Johnson & Johnson products, and we encourage you to contact us with your legal questions.