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Straight Talk on Talc

by JoAnn Pinkerton | May 20, 2016

There have been several stories in the news about legal victories for women and their families who have sued manufacturers of talcum powder over claims that it caused their ovarian cancers. If you have used products containing talc on your body, particularly in the genital region, you may be concerned. Many studies have looked at the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but the results have been mixed. It’s true that some retrospective case-control studies have found a slightly increased risk, but these types of studies often rely on a person’s memory, in this case of talc use many years earlier. Two studies that followed individual women over time, which did not have the potential for bias, did not find an increased risk. Some experts suggest that if there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer with genital talc use, it is very small at an increased relative risk of 1.2 (20% risk) over a woman’s baseline risk of 1.3%. Ovarian cancer is relatively rare, with approximately two out of 1,000 women developing ovarian cancer in 10 years of follow-up. If this small increased risk is true, this would mean an extra four cancers found out of 10,000 women over 10 years of follow-up. Research continues, but until more information is available, women should be cautioned against using genital talc powder. For women who have used genital talc in the past, there are no new recommendations for ovarian cancer screening, because current screening methods are not recommended for women at average or slightly increased risk. Read more on what the American Cancer Society has to say about talc here.




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JoAnn V. Pinkerton, MD, NCMP
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