Ovarian Cancer and Talcum Powder
Talcum Powder (Talc) has been connected to ovarian cancer. So far there have been two successful verdicts against Johnson & Johnson, makers of two popular talc products.
Talc has been connected to Ovarian Cancer for several years now. If it was used regularly (Daily or weekly) it can significantly raise the risk of ovarian cancer. Talc has been found to migrate through the fallopian tubes into the ovaries where it can stay lodged for many years.
In the last year there have been two successful verdicts against Johnson & Johnson. One was a $72 Million verdict. The second was a $55 Million verdict. In that case the plaintiff said she used their talc products for decades.
There is evidence in each of these cases that indicates that J&J may have known of the risks that talc posed to women, yet did not warn or them.
Give us a call. Let us help you discover if you have a case.
Client Questions and Answers
Ovarian Cancer is primarily found in or on one or more of a woman’s ovaries. Depending on the specific type and stage of cancer, it can also be found to have spread to other female reproductive organs, the lining and organs of the abdomen, the body’s lymph nodes, and in rare cases, the brain, bones, and skin.
Ovarian Cancer starts in or on a woman’s ovaries, the almond-shaped female reproductive glands that sit at the ends of her fallopian tubes producing eggs during a woman’s normal reproductive cycle and producing most of the female body’s estrogen and progesterone. Cancerous tumors can grow in any of the various layers of tissue and types of cells that make up the ovaries.
Ovarian Cancer can spread to other reproductive organs in the pelvis (uterus, fallopian tubes, etc.), as well as, to the walls and organs of the abdomen, and to the lymph nodes. In extremely advanced cases, Ovarian Cancer also spreads to the liver, lungs and rarely, the brain, bones, or skin.
How fast Ovarian Cancer spreads depends on many factors such as the specific type of tumor or the overall health of the woman before the cancer developed.
Ovarian cancer symptoms are often vague and very difficult to identify. The four primary symptoms to watch out for are abnormal pelvic or abdominal pain, increased frequency or urgency in urination, bloating, and rapidly feeling full when eating. If a combination of these symptoms persist for several weeks, women are advised to seek medical advice. Other potential symptoms of Ovarian cancer are intense exhaustion, persistent digestive upset (indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, excessive gas), irregular menstrual cycles, lower back pain, or pain during intercourse.
There is no standard screening protocol for Ovarian Cancer. Annual gynecological exams do not screen for this cancer. Also, the primary symptoms (pelvic/abdominal pain, bloating, feeling full rapidly, & frequent/urgent urination) are vague, often mild, and sometimes dismissed as connected to other common ailments.
The only way to definitively diagnose Ovarian cancer is via a surgical biopsy of the suspected tumor. While a doctor may order a transvaginal ultrasound or CA-125 blood test to look for any mass on the ovaries and screen for certain protein markers, an ovarian tumor can only be diagnosed as cancerous once a sample of the tumor’s tissue has been microscopically examined by a qualified pathologist.
Serous epithelial ovarian cancer is statistically the most common form of Ovarian Cancer, making up around 70% of all diagnosed cases. In this context, the word “Serous” refers to the cells that constitute the outside lining of the ovaries, which is where this specific type of Ovarian Cancer most likely starts.
There are four main stages of ovarian cancer, with several substages each. The main stages are usually identified by Roman numerals, i.e., Stage I, Stage II, Stage III, and Stage IV.
Stage I ovarian cancer means that the cancerous tumor is limited to just the ovary or ovaries. At this stage, the cancer has not spread to any surrounding tissue. Stage II indicates that the cancer is now spreading into other organs in the pelvis, such as the fallopian tubes or uterus. By Stage III, the cancerous cells have spread from the ovary or ovaries beyond the pelvis into the lymph nodes and/or the abdominal wall or organs. Stage IV, the most advanced stage of this cancer, results in metastasis (spreading of the cancer) in various places throughout the body, most commonly the lungs and liver.
The primary treatment for Ovarian Cancer begins with surgery. Usually, this surgery is part of the diagnostic process where the initially identified mass (tumor) is biopsied. During this surgery, a gynecological oncologist may also perform a debulking procedure to remove any and all potentially cancerous tissue from the ovaries and pelvic region. Surgery is usually followed by a course of chemotherapy. The extent of the chemotherapy may depend on the stage of the cancer.
The 5-year survival rates are primarily dependent on the stage at which the Ovarian Cancer is diagnosed and treatment begins. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the prognosis. The most recent 5-year survival rates for invasive epithelial ovarian cancer (the most common type) are 90% if diagnosed and treated at Stage I and 70% if diagnosed and treated at Stage II. Rates drop dramatically for late stage diagnosis. Stage III diagnosed patients face a 39% 5-year survival prognosis, while only 17% of Stage IV patients survive to 5 years post-diagnosis.
Ovarian Cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women, resulting in over 14,000 deaths per year, primarily because it is usually not diagnosed until it is already metastasizing or spreading through the body (Stages III or IV). Late stage diagnosis makes successful treatment and positive prognosis much more challenging.
Yes, Ovarian Cancer can go into remission. However, women who have undergone treatment for Ovarian Cancer will still need to follow up regularly with their oncologists to be sure the cancer does not recur.
Yes, approximately 40-50% of women who are declared to be in remission after undergoing surgery and an initial course of chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer experience recurrence of their cancer within the first three years.
Ovarian Cancer is primarily caused by age and heredity. A woman’s reproductive history -- whether or not she has used birth control pills, fertility treatment, or hormone replacement therapy and if she has had children -- may also contribute. Obesity and environmental exposure to potential carcinogens like talc have also been linked with Ovarian Cancer.
While all women are at risk for Ovarian Cancer, normally it is fairly rare in women under 40 years old. Most cases of Ovarian Cancer are diagnosed in postmenopausal women. Overweight women with a BMI of 30 or higher are also at increased risk, as are women with a family history of female reproductive cancers (i.e., breast, ovarian, or colon cancer) or women who test positive for the BRAC1 or BRAC2 genes.
Yes. in addition to postmenopausal women, Hispanic women, women with Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish heritage, women who have never been pregnant, women who took Clomid for over a year without becoming pregnant, and women taking estrogen hormone replacement therapy for 5-10 years or more are all groups in which Ovarian Cancer is more common.
In addition to these standard increased risk groups, studies now show that women with a long term history of genital talc use also experience a greater risk of Ovarian Cancer. A study released in 2016 demonstrated a 44% increase in the risk of Ovarian Cancer for African-American women who regularly use talc based powder on their genitals.
Yes, every year the President of the United States declares September to be National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month.
Talcum powder is essentially powdered talc, a naturally occurring mineral primarily made up of silicon and magnesium. Talc is mined in areas also rich with asbestos and until 1976, US talc manufacturers were not required to screen their raw talc for asbestos contamination.
No, talcum powder is just the powdered talc by itself. Talcum powder is a primary ingredient in other body powders, to include many brands of baby powder. Baby powders may have other assorted ingredients in them in addition to the talcum powder, such as fragrances or preservatives.
Talc deposits are often co-located in the earth with naturally occurring asbestos. Since 1976, the United States has set strict screening standards in regards to possible asbestos contamination in commercial grade talc. But prior to that date, cross-contamination was much more likely. Commercial talc is most widely used personal care products like baby powder or body powder. The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer endorses the use of baby powder on infants because of the documented risk of damage to a child’s lungs if the talc particles are inhaled. Also, baby or body powder products used as genital deodorants are now proving to be associated with an increased risk of Ovarian Cancer.
Talc is used in a wide variety of industries to produce plastics, ceramics, and even construction materials. As a result of its ability to absorb both water and oil, and act as a lubricant and a deodorant, commercial grade talcum powder is a common ingredient in an assortment of personal care products, especially those marketed to and used by women. Talc appears in blushes, powder foundations, and other cosmetics, as well as, in deodorant body or foot powders.
All brands of talcum powder are made with powdered talc and carry the same health risks. One brand is not any safer than another.
The cosmetic use of talcum powder seems to have originated in Italy in the 1800s. By 1893, American companies were marketing their own lines of talcum powder-based products, primarily targeting mothers and their newborn babies.
Talcum powder was aggressively marketed to women as an effective moisture and odor absorber. Ad campaigns for popular talc-based body powders often implied talcum powder use would keep a woman fresh and presentable, preventing her from being potentially publicly embarrassed by being perceived as dirty or smelly. Women were encouraged to use talcum powder liberally anywhere on their bodies that might produce any socially unacceptable odors, which especially implied using it on their genitals.
Based on past studies, biopsied tissue samples, and their own experience some doctors and scientists believe talc particles from genital talc usage are able to travel up through a woman’s vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes and lodge in her ovarian tissue. These talc crystals, which the body recognizes as foreign particles, then trigger an inflammatory response in the ovarian tissue that persists and later develops into Ovarian Cancer.