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Science of Talcum Powder

Does talcum powder cause cancer? According to people who are filing lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson and other manufacturers of talcum powder, it sure does. These people claim that frequent use of talcum powder in the genital area can increase the risk of ovarian cancer, and are suggesting that the manufacturing companies were aware of this link for a while and actively tried to suppress it. Lots of places online where you can read about the litigation: and about the alleged link between talcum powder and cancer:

But what does the science say? The international agency for research on cancer classifies the use of talcum powder in the genital region as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” noting that asbestos-based talcum powder (NOT used in consumer products today) is carcinogenic to humans, because of the asbestos.

Why only possibly, though, and why is it hard to figure out whether there is a real link? Well, it turns out that many studies are done in animal models, and many of those shows a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer in the animals exposed to talcum powder. However, translating animal studies into understanding cancer in humans is pretty complicated and risky. Studies in humans investigating the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer are mixed. Some of them show small increases in risk whereas others do not.

Read the American Cancer Society’s webpage on this important issue: and decide for yourself whether you want to continue uses talcum powder in light of this information. I started researching this topic thinking that the link between talcum powder and cancer was probably made up by fear mongers and people afraid of chemicals. Now, to be honest, I am not so sure.

Stay aware, scientists and readers, and stay curious!

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