The denial by the personal care industry that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer has a familiar ring to it.
The baby powder and ovarian cancer connection is hard to dispute.
As late as 1960 only one-third of all U.S. doctors believed cigarettes caused cancer, preferring to buy into cigarette manufacturers’ orchestrated conspiracy to salvage cigarette sales. The sugar industry is currently doing much of the same despite overwhelming evidence that sugar is addictive and increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
The reality is that talc, which is found in baby powder (as well as eye shadow, blush, and deodorant) has been linked to ovarian cancer in numerous studies beginning in 1971 when scientists pointed to a possible connection between the dusting of female genitals with talcum powder and ovarian cancer. They believed that talc particles entered a woman’s reproductive tract through the vagina and traveled through the cervix into the uterus, then moved through the fallopian tubes to the ovaries.
Researchers detailed findings in The Lancetjournal that a majority of ovarian tumors had particles of talc deeply embedded in them. That study was followed up by another one in 1982 in the journal Cancer, showing supporting research linking ovarian cancer to talcum powder. Since then, another two dozen studies have shown similar cause-effect relationships, including a June 2013 study where researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital reported an increased risk of ovarian cancer of 20 to 30 percent for women who used talcum powder for intimate personal hygiene, confirming an earlier study in the journal Anticancer Research.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reported: “Talcum powder use increases the risk of endometrial cancer, particularly among postmenopausal women.”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies talc that contains asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans.” IARC is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). Its main goal is to identify causes of cancer.
“Information raising the question of this link has been available in the medical and scientific literature for years,” says Dr. Jennie Ann Freiman, a New York obstetrician-gynecologist. “It was the reason I always counseled my gym patients against using talc in any form, including foot powder.”
“The research shows that there can be a correlation,” adds Dr. Abby Kramer, a chiropractor and holistic physician in Glenview, Illinois. “I would say to avoid it. This is especially important to women who already have risk factors such as family history of ovarian cancer, genetic mutations, or a history of smoking.”
Looking Beyond The Talc
According to Kramer, talcum powder was never intended for everyday use. “For those using it daily I’d be asking — why do they need to use powders ‘down there’ on a daily basis? If that sort of measure is needed daily for hygienic reasons, surely there is something else going on whether it be pH, hormonal, or digestive microbiome imbalance.”
Kramer says talcum powder is essentially a “Band-Aid” sort of treatment. “By finding out the root cause of the issue, that sort of therapy isn’t needed anymore.”
Waibel suggests seeing a certified dermatologist to help discuss other treatment options to help with excess sweating or intertrigo (rash between skin folds).
“It is recommended for patients to stay away from using any talcum powders,” says Waibel.
More than 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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