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List of Studies of the Dangers of Talcum Powder

List of Scientific Studies

On this page we have compiled a list of talcum powder studies performed by various institutions around the world, and have listed their results. News sources report a varying amount of studies on the effects of genital talcum powder use, but we have found 20 total studies online from 1971 to 2016, 14 of which found a strong positive association between the genital use of talcum powder and occurences of ovarian cancer. The first study in 1971 should be discounted however, as asbestos was an ingredient in talcum powder up until 1973, and asbestos is a known carcinogen that would have affected the results of the study. The 7 remaining studies either did not find any link between talc and ovarian cancer, or the findings were positive but not statistically significant (Any link could have been coincidental). More information on ovarian cancer and subsequent lawsuits can be found here.

We have compiled the results of all of these studies and links here, as a comprehensive reference for those who want to know the scientific consensus on this topic.

Note: Red Numbers indicate that a positive association has been found between genital or abdominal talcum powder use and increased risk of ovarian cancer. Green numbers indicate no significant association between talc and ovarian cancer could be found.

Authors: W. Henderson, C. Joslin, A. Turnbull, K. Griffiths

Summary:This study was performed to examine the similarities between the minerals talc and asbestos and whether talc use, which at the time contained asbestos, had any effect on cancer in the ovaries and cervix. The authors took 13 subjects with ovarian or cervical cancer and obtained tissue samples from them, to determine if any talc particles were present in the samples.

Results:10 out of 13 of the samples were found to have contained talc particles, and no asbestos particles were found in any of the samples. This was the first study that suggested there may be a link between talc use and ovarian cancer. However, these results imply nothing more than correlation, and the results of the study should be discounted due to the presence of asbestos, a known carcinogen, in the talc. Asbestos was removed from talcum powders in 1973.

Authors: D. Cramer, W. Welch, R. Scully, C. Wojciechowski

Summary:This case-control study was undertaken to explore in more detail the association between ovarian cancer and the regular genital use of talc products such as baby powder. Researchers interviewed 215 women with ovarian cancer and found 215 controls who matched the age, race and residence of the cases. The study also took into account when talc was dusted on condoms or on diaphragms.

Results:This study found that there was a significantly higher amount of ovarian cancer cases in subjects who used talc, either as dusting powder or on sanitary napkins. This conclusion still held true even when accounting for interviewer and selection bias.

Authors: B. Harlow, N. Weiss

Summary:This study interviewed 116 female residents with serious ovarian tumors and interviewed 158 control subjects in the same area, with regards to their use of hygenic powders.

Results:There was no difference in risk of ovarian tumors between women who used baby powder or corn starch and those who did not. However, the results showed that women who specifically used talc-containing deodorizing powders had 2.8 times the risk of an ovarian tumor. This result showed that there was a difference between powders containing talc and those that did not contain talc.

Authors: A. Whittemore, M. Wu, R. Paffenbarger Jr., D. Sarles, J. Kampert, S. Grosser, D. Jung, S. Ballon, M. Hendrickson

Summary:This study was conducted to determine if vaginal exposure to talc increased the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. Researchers assessed talcum powder use in 188 women with epithelial ovarian tumors and in 539 control subjects. Other factors such as consumption of coffee, tobacco, and alcohol were also reviewed.

Results:Though there was some data showing that perineal use of talcum powder more than 20 times a month were at 1.45 times the risk for ovarian cancer, this data was not statistically significant, and therefore must be treated as though it was a sampling error. Thus, the study reported that there was no significant link between baby powder use and ovarian cancer.

Authors: M. Booth, V. Beral, P. Smith

Summary:This study was conducted to determine whether several factors including Mentrual Characteristics, reporductive and contraceptive history, and history of exposure to environmental factors like baby powder increase the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. The study was completed with 235 women diagnosed with cancer and 451 controls.

Results:According to the findings, women who used talc once a week or more had increased for getting ovarian cancer. However, the study notes that this evidence can be controversial since the women were not asked how long they had been using talc, or their frequency of past use.

Authors: Y. Chen, P. Wu, J. Lang, W. Ge, P. Hartge, L. Brinton

Summary:This study of 112 ovarian cancer cases in Chinese women and 224 controls evaluated the risk of ovarian cancer with regard to reproductive, medical, familial, and lifestyle factors.

Results:The study found that perineal use of talcum powder increased the risk of ovarian cancer after 3 months of usage. Researchers concluded that this was similar to findings from other institutions around the world.

Authors: D. Purdie, A. Green, C. Bain, V. Siskind, B. Ward, N.Hacker, M. Quinn, G. Wright, P. Russell, B. Susil

Summary:This study involving 824 women with ovarian cancer and 860 controls explored the risks factors associated with ovarian cancer. In addition to talc use, other factors reviewed were use of oral contraceptives, hysterectomy, tubal ligation, number of incomplete pregnancies, BMI, menstrual history, hormone replacement therapy, history of cancer, and smoking.

Results:Researchers found that talc use in the abdominal or perineal region was positively associated with the occurrence of ovarian cancer. This study also found that smoking, high BMI, and family history of ovarian cancer was positively associated.

Authors: S. Chang, H. Risch

Summary:This study notes the former research into the effects of talcum powder within the ovaries and expands on it by examining 450 ovarian cancer patients and 564 controls in southern Ontario. Subjects were interviewed about reproductive and menstrual histories.

Results:The study concluded that exposure to talc was significantly associated with risk of ovarian cancer. However, duration of talc exposeure only showed a borderline significant association when examining subjects with 10 years of exposure, and there was no significant association found between the risk of cancer and the frequency of exposure.

Authors: D. Cramer, R. Liberman, L. Titus-Ernstoff, W. Welch, E. Greenverg, J. Baron, B. Harlow

Summary:The abstract for this study noted that previous studies concerning baby powder use had their biological associations called into question, and repeated the talc-ovarian cancer association study with 563 newly diagnosed epithelial ovarian cancer patients, and 523 controls from eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Results:The results of the study showed that ovarian cancer cases were more likely than the controls to have used talcum powder, and after adjusting for age, location, parity, oral contraceptive use, BMI, and family history of cancer, users of talc were 60% more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who did not use talc. The association was stronger for women who were exposed to talcum powder before having a child, and for women with serous epithelial cancer, as opposed to mucinous epithelial cancer. The study concluded that more public health warnings about the risks of powders containing talc were warrented.

Authors: C. Wong, R. Hempling, M. Piver, N. Natarajan, C. Mettlin

Summary:This study performed by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York, used 327 patients with epithelial ovarian cancer as subjects and 693 controls. The study adjusted for age, medical history, smoking history, and common demographic metrics.

Results:This study found no significant association between talc use and epithelial ovarian cancer even for women who had used baby powder or other talc products for more than 20 years. Additionally, patients with a history of tubal ligation or hysterectomy were also not found to have a significant risk for development of cancer.

Authors: D. Gertig, D. Hunter, D. Cramer, G. Colditz, F. Speizer, W. Willet, S. Hankinson

Summary:This study acknowldeged the potential for recall or selection bias in previous studies and attempted to shed more light on the talc controversy. Researchers ascertained talc exposure prior to the development of ovarian cancer for the subjects, and ran a prospective analysis to determine if there was a talc/cancer link without resporting to a case-control study.

Results:The conclusion of this study did not observe an overall association between ovarian cancer and the use of talc, though it did observe a small increase in serous ovarian cancer in women who had used the product at least once. There were some limitations of the study, the primary one being that there was no available information on the duration of use of the talc.

Authors: R. Ness, J. Grisso, C. C. Cottreau, J. Klapper, R.Vergona, J. Wheeler, M. Morgan, J. Schlesselman

Summary:This study compared 767 cases of recently diagnosed ovarian cancer with 1367 controls to determine what the role of inflammation was in developing ovarian cancer.

Results:Several factors were found to have reduced risk of ovarian cancer, including breast feeding, oral contraceptives, and the number of times a woman has been pregnant. Hysterectomies and tubal ligation was also found to have reduced the risk of ovarian cancer. Talc use, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and hyperthyroidism were found to have increased the risk of cancer.

Authors: P. Mills, D. Riordan, R. Cress, H. Young

Summary:This study was conducted with 256 ovarian cancer cases in the California Central Valley, along with 1,122 controls. Subjects were questioned about perineal talc use, how often it was used, and for how many years it was used, as well as other demographic factors.

Results:The study found that there was an increased association of ovarian cancer with perineal talc use, but there was no dose response assocation, meaning that this association did not increase as women dusted more frequently. Talc use resulted in the highest risk for serous invasive tumors, and this risk was cut dramatically in women who had undergone tubal ligation.

Authors: M. Merritt, A. Green, C. Nagle, P. Webb, Austrailia Cancer Study, Austrailian Ovarian Cancer Study Group

Summary:A study of 1,576 Austrailian women with low malignant potential (LMP) ovarian tumors and 1,509 controls was performed to determine whether chronic inflammation was the causal mechanism by which talc use would increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Results:The study found that there was a statistically significant association between talc use in the pelvic region and serous epithelial ovarian cancer, and that there was also an assocation for endometrioid ovarian cancer, but this was not significant. It also found that there was an increased risk of only endometrioid and clear cell ovarian cancer among women with a history of endometriosis. Regular usage of anti-inflammatory drugs reduced the risk of LMP mucinous ovarian tumors but no other subtype of cancer. The final conclusion was that chronic inflammation is not a major factor in ovarian cancer risk.

Authors: M. Gates, S. Tworoger, K. Terry, L. Titus-Ernstoff, B. Rosner, I. De Vivo, D. Cramer, S. Hankinson

Summary:This study aimed to understand the biological basis for the assocation between talc use and ovarian cancer. It examined 1,175 cases and 1,202 controls from a new england case-control study, and 201 cases and 600 controls from a prospective Nurse's Health study.

Results:Talc was found to have an association with increased risk of cancer, but especially in women who had the GSTT1-null genotype and the GSTM1-present genotype. Women with only the GSTM1 or NAT2 genes did not show any signs of assocation. The results suggest that only certain women with specific genotypes will experience an increased risk for ovarian cancer when using talcum powder.

Authors: A. Wu, C. Pearce, C. Tseng, C. Templeman, M. Pike

Summary:This study examined the effect that inflammation has on the development of ovarian cancer, specifically in concjuntion with talc use, history of endometriosis, and anti-inflammatory drugs. The study examined 609 women with newly diagnosed epithelial ovarian cancer and 688 controls in Los Angeles County.

Results:The study concluded that both talc use and history of endometriosis increased the risk of ovarian cancer - up to 3 times the normal risk if both factors were present. On the other hand, the frequent use of anti-inflammatory drugs was found to have increased the risk of ovarian cancer in this study. This was unexpected due to previous studies that found that these drugs reduced the risk of cancer.

Authors: K. Rosenblatt, N. Weiss, K. Cushing-Haugen, K. Wicklund, M. Rossing

Summary:This study took 812 cases and 1313 controls to shed more light on the association between genital talcum powder use and ovarian cancer risk. Subjects were asked about their talc use after bathing or on sanitary napkins or diaphragms.

Results:The study found a slight increase in risk of ovarian cancer with talc use after bathing, but no risk increase association with a longer duration of use or extent of use. The study also found no increase in risk when using talc on sanitary napkins or diaphragms. Thus, researchers determined that an association is merely "possible".

Authors: K. Terry, S. Karageorgi, Y. Shvetsov, M. Merritt, G. Lurie, P. Thompson, M. Carney, R. Weber, L. Akushevich, W. Lo-Ciganic, K. Cushing-Haugen, W. Sieh, K. Moysich, J. Doherty, C. Nagle, A. Berchuck, C. Pearce, M. Pike, R. Ness, P. Webb, M. Rossing, J. Schildkraut, H. Risch, M. Goodman

Summary:This study pooled information and resources from 8 different studies each regarding ovarian cancer risk increasing with talc usage. The total cases numbered 8,525, and made use of 9,859 controls.

Results:After pooling all of the participants' information, the study concluded that genital poder use was associated with a small risk in epithelial ovarin cancer, for serous, endometrioid, and clear cell tumors, as well as borderline serous tumors. However, the study found no association between the number of lifetime applications or any association between women who reported non-genital talcum powder usage.

Authors: S. Houghton, K. Reeves, S. Hankinson, L. Crawford, D. Lane. J. Wactawaski-Wende, C. Thompson, J. Ockene, S. Sturgeon

Summary:This cohort study enlisted 61,576 participants with 429 ovarian cancer cases, in an attempt to study the assocation of talc with ovarian cancer without running a case-control study, which has it's drawbacks. The average age of these participants was 63.3 years.

Results:The study could find no association between ever using perineal powder and an increased risk of ovarian cancer. The study noted that it had a large sample size and didn't have to rely on the study cases' memory or biased recollection of their talcum powder use as much as the case-control studies that came before. However, it had its limitations including the fact that all women were post-menopausal and therefore could not gauge the effects of talc on younger women, and also that the study only mentioned perineal powder, and not specifically talc - meaning that the subjects may have been using an alternative like corn starch.

Authors: D. Cramer, A. Vitonis, K. Terry, W. Welch, L. Titus

Summary:This study examined 2,041 women with epithelial ovarian cancer and used 2,100 age- and residence-matched controls. The study calculated "talc-years" (or the product of applications per and years used) and used this number to determine whether there was an increase in likelihood of ovarian cancer when a subject had a higher count of talc-years.

Results:A trend was found of increasing risk of ovarian cancer with an increase in talc-years. This trend was even more pronounced in premenopausal women, or postmenopausal women using hormone therapy. Risks were also found to vary by weight, smoking, and estrogen/prolactin levels.

Study Limitations

It is important to note the limitations of the studies. Most of the studies were case-control studies, and the subjects of the study were asked to recall their baby powder usage and the frequency and duration of the usage. However, relying on a subjects memory can be dangerous because people's memory is often unreliable and can produce incorrect results.

Another serious limitation is that many of the studies asked patients about their perineal powder use, but failed to specify whether their powder contained talc. Some of the participants could have reported on their corn starch use and skewed the data in that way.

Other studies (19) also studied only a specific demographic, and was unable to get data for the population as a whole.

Study Takeaways

These studies predominantly demonstrated that the usage of talcum powder in the genital area could increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer for certain women. However, they also contained interesting insights regarding talc use and ovarian cancer that is not readily available from existing online medical sources. This data is not necessarily considered medical fact and can be contested, but is still interesting to observe.

  • Having a historectomy or tubal ligation lowers the risk of ovarian cancer (Study 4, 12, 13)
  • Having a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) raises the risk of ovarian cancer (7)
  • Smoking raises the risk of ovarian cancer (7)
  • Hyperthyroidism raises the risk of ovarian Cancer (12)
  • Ovarian cysts rise the risk of ovarian cancer (7)
  • Having the GSTT1 and GSTM1 genes increase the risk of ovarian cancer if subject uses talc (15)
  • There is no known association between the length or duration that a subject uses baby powder, and the risk of ovarian cancer (8, 10, 13, 18)

If you have any questions or comments about these studies, or would like more information for your publications, please contact us using the contact form at the top of the page. We have compiled a list of these studies and the location of where they can be found and would be happy to share with any individual or publication.

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