Earlier this week, it was confirmed that pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson had been ordered to pay $55 million in damages to an individual in America who claimed the use of its talcum powder had caused her ovarian cancer.
However, in response to this, The Eve Appeal’s Information Nurse Tracie Miles seeks to explain the links between ovarian cancer and talcum powder use and why these claims are scientifically unfounded.
“It was roughly twenty years ago that a research group asked a large cohort of women with ovarian cancer about their usual habits, in an attempt to see if there were any particular activity which could be linked or associated with women developing ovarian cancer. This suggested that at that stage, there were more women with ovarian cancer who used talcum powder to dust their genital area, than those without ovarian cancer.
“However, this judgement does not necessarily mean that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer, it was merely the fact that it was found to be used more commonly by women who had ovarian cancer. Since this initial study of women’s habits, there have been numerous others trying to repeat this work, some of which show a link to ovarian cancer development, while others don't. The problem with this type of research is that it doesn't prove anything. Two large, high quality studies which followed women throughout their lives, rather than asking them to remember what happened in the past, failed to show any link between the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
“All this means is that we don't know if there is an association between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. If there is one, then this link will be very limited.
“The initial legal case in America earlier this year focused on the duty imposed on Johnson & Johnson to provide a warning. The original research suggested that there was a link to ovarian cancer through the use of their talcum powder, but this has never been proven nor disproven. Therefore in a court of law, it was concluded that they had a duty to warn customers about scientific data surrounding the risk on their website and future products.
“The science demonstrates a small link to the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but there is an element of uncertainty. However, if an association exists, it does not prove that it is a cause of ovarian cancer – just a probable cause. If this is the case, this will only effect a very small number of women. Any risk is important to know about, but it is also critical we only raise alerts over scientifically proven risks. At this stage, the link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder is simply not scientifically proved.”