Harmful Side Effects of Talcum Powder

Studies show that using talc-based products, like Johnson & Johnson's baby powder, may increase a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson now faces thousands of lawsuits for failing to warn of talc's risks.

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Talcum Powder Side Effects

Using talcum powder for feminine hygiene may increase the risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 33%, some studies report. Johnson & Johnson faces more than 3,000 lawsuits for its baby powder products which women allege caused their ovarian cancer.

Despite being hit with numerous verdicts, including the most recent which toppled $110 million, Johnson & Johnson still maintains that its product is safe and refuses to place a warning on their talc-based products. But, the numerous studies which show an association between talcum powder and ovarian cancer suggest otherwise.

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How Does Talcum Powder Cause Ovarian Cancer?

Talcum powder is primarily made from talc, a soft mineral that is used in cosmetics to absorb moisture and reduce friction.

When the powder is used in the genital area, it can travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. There, the powder can cause inflammation of the ovaries.

In its natural form, talc can contain the carcinogen asbestos which is associated with mesothelioma and other lung diseases. Commercial talc-based products have been asbestos free since the 1970’s. However, because the powder can travel to the ovaries, asbestos-free talcum powder products still pose a health risk if used for feminine hygiene.

Talcum Powder May Increase Risk Of Ovarian Cancer By 33%

Recent lawsuits allege that Johnson & Johnson executives may have been aware of the dangers of their baby powder for years.

The association between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer dates as far back as the 1970’s.

In 1971, British researchers found talc particles embedded in 10 of the 13 ovarian tumors they analyzed. By 1982, scientists were able to prove a statistical link between genital talc powder use and ovarian cancer.  

In 2003, a review of 16 different studies found that a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer increased by 33 percent if they used talc-based products.

Recent lawsuits even allege that Johnson & Johnson executives may have been aware of the dangers of their baby powder for years. A lawsuit filed on behalf of Jacqueline Fox cited internal Johnson & Johnson documents in which executives compared the relationship between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer to tobacco use and lung cancer.  




According to the American Cancer Society, women should be aware of the following persistent symptoms for ovarian cancer:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating
  • Active bladder

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Back pain
  • Painful intercourse
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual changes
  • Abdominal swelling and weight loss


The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017, 22,440 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017, 22,440 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

If you present the above symptoms, your physician may conduct pelvic and physical exams to look for enlarged ovaries and signs of fluid in the abdomen. Imaging tests (including CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds) can also help determine if there is a mass in the pelvic area. Physicians may also measure a patient’s CA-125 levels; high levels of the protein are often associated with ovarian cancer.

Only a biopsy can confirm ovarian cancer though. Physicians will typically remove a patient's tumor or any excess fluid in the abdominal area to test for cancer.

Once diagnosed, physicians use the following guidelines to stage ovarian cancer:

  • Stage I: Cancer is only present in the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
  • Stage II: Cancer has spread to other organs in the pelvic area, like the uterus or bladder, but has not spread beyond the pelvic region or to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage III: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and / or beyond the pelvis to the abdominal lining.
  • Stage IV: At its most advanced stage, ovarian cancer has spread beyond the abdominal area to organs like the liver and lungs.



Types of Ovarian Cancer

The ovaries have three types of cells, each of which can develop into tumors. Treatment and prognosis can differ significantly depending on which cells are affected.

Epithelial Ovarian Cancer

Epithelial cells cover the outer layer of the ovaries. The majority of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer (85 to 90%) have epithelial cell tumors.

These tumors may spread to the lining and organs surrounding the pelvis and abdomen. When this occurs, it may result in fluid build-up in the abdomen.

Germ Cell Tumors

Germ cells produce eggs. These tumors make up less than 2% of ovarian cancer diagnoses.

This type of ovarian cancer typically has high survival rates: More than nine out of ten women will survive longer than five years after diagnosis.

Stromal Cell Tumors

Stromal cells produce hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and the tissue cells that hold the ovaries together.

Stromal tumors only make up 1% of all ovarian cancer diagnosesover half of which affect women over the age of 50.

Because these cells produce hormones, the most common symptom of a tumor is abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause or before puberty.

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Like other forms of cancer, treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of medications and therapies.

  • Surgery: Surgery is used to both determine the stage of the cancer as well as to remove the cancer. Surgery can involve removing the uterus (hysterectomy), one or both ovaries, and / or the fallopian tubes. Debulking surgery (which removes as much of the cancer as possible) may involve removing parts of the colon and bladder, spleen/gallbladder, liver, stomach, and/or pancreas, depending on where the cancer has spread.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy for ovarian cancer patients usually involves a combination of two or more drugs, commonly carboplatin and paclitaxel.
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a newer form of cancer treatment which specifically targets the cancer cells without damaging healthy cells. These drugs include angiogenesis inhibitors, which stop tumors from forming new blood vessels, and PARP inhibitors, which target BRCA gene mutations.

Other forms of treatment may include hormone therapy for ovarian stromal tumors, and radiation therapy if the cancer has spread.


Ovarian cancer prognosis can vary greatly depending on the stage of cancer, the type, as well as the age and health of the patient.

The American Cancer Society offers the following data for average five-year survival rates:

  • Stage I: 90% of patients survive past five years.
  • Stage II: 70% of patients survive past five years.
  • Stage III: 39% of patients survive past five years.
  • Stage IV: 17% of patients survive past five years.

Other Talc-Related Health Complications

Though ovarian cancer is more commonly associated with cosmetic talcum powder use, the powder has been linked to other cancers as well.

One study showed an association to endometrial cancer, or cancer of the uterus. And, because some talcum powder products used to contain asbestos, consumers were at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma (a severe form of lung cancer) if the product was inhaled into the lungs.

Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer? We Can Help

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talc-based products in the genital area, you may be eligible for a lawsuit. A lawsuit can help recover damages for medical costs, pain and suffering, and more.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation legal review.