Research Unclear About Whether Talc Causes Cancer
May 10th, 2017 by Wapner Newman
In its natural state, the mineral talc is often found alongside the mineral asbestos, a substance known to cause cancer in humans. The proximity of those minerals means there is a possibility for asbestos to contaminate talc.
Since the 1970s, the manufacture of products containing asbestos has been illegal in the United States. So the talcum powder used in U.S. homes, and in cosmetics, should be asbestos-free. But the American Cancer Society says that the link between talcum powder and certain types of cancer merits further investigation.
What Studies Have Found
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted a study between 2009 and 2010 of raw talc and found no evidence of asbestos in any of the products it examined. However, of the nine talc suppliers the FDA contacted to ask for study samples, only four honored the request. The FDA said that the results of their study are therefore limited and “ do not prove that most or all talc or talc-containing cosmetic products currently marketed in the United States are likely to be free of asbestos contamination.”
The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center wrote about a study in which researchers investigated the link between the use of talcum powder in the vaginal area and cancer of the uterus. Researchers found no correlation between the two, but they did find an association among post-menopausal women who had uterine cancer – those who used talcum powder at any point in the past had a 21-percent higher cancer risk, and those who used talcum powder at least once per week had a 24-percent higher cancer risk.
Questions have also arisen about whether talc raises the risk of ovarian cancer. A jury in St. Louis believed there is a link – it ordered New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer. She had used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and body powder regularly for 35 years. That was the second talc-related lawsuit the company lost in 2016. The first – also in Missouri – resulted in a $55 million verdict for a woman who developed ovarian cancer and had a hysterectomy.
Research Uncovers Carcinogens
Just because a substance isn’t currently a known carcinogen, this does not mean it’s safe. Researchers continue to discover new carcinogens, such as cobalt, which the National Toxicology Program added to the list of carcinogens last November. The substance, found in some orthopedic implants, metalworking plants, and in a blue pigment used in glass and tiles, is “reasonably anticipated to be a known carcinogen,” based on studies of rats and mice.
Last July, researchers announced they had found two previously undiscovered carcinogens in the vapor of electronic cigarettes, which refutes manufacturer claims that e-cigs are a “safe” alternative to real cigarettes.
When there is any doubt about whether a product contains carcinogens, consumers may be at risk. Further studies of talcum powder may eventually confirm anecdotal evidence that there is a link between talc and cancer.
If you have any questions about this topic or believe that a consumer product may have led to your development of cancer, the attorneys at Wapner Newman can help. We encourage you to contact us today by calling 1-800-LAW-6600 or by filling out a free case evaluation form.