Flickr / Johnson’s Baby Powder / CC-BY-20

With rising concerns about talcum products and two recent losses at trial, Johnson & Johnson may be facing a tough road ahead as it denies any ovarian cancer risk for women using the powder for feminine hygiene.

On Monday, a Missouri court ordered the company to pay $55 million to a woman who claimed that its talcum powder caused her to develop ovarian cancer. This followed a verdict in February in which Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer.

The company is facing 1,200 lawsuits involving similar claims but denies that the use of its talcum powder on the genital area increases the risk of ovarian cancer. The company has already appealed the February verdict and plans to appeal the latest.

BBC News reports:

Is talc safe?

There have been concerns for years that using talcum powder, particularly on the genitals, may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

But the evidence is not conclusive. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc used on the genitals as “possibly carcinogenic” because of the mixed evidence.

Why is there any debate?

The mineral talc in its natural form does contain asbestos and does cause cancer. However, asbestos-free talc has been used in baby powder and other cosmetics since the 1970s. But the studies on asbestos-free talc give contradictory results.

It has been linked to a cancer risk in some studies, but there are concerns that the research may be biased as the studies often rely on people remembering how much talc they used years ago. Other studies have argued there is no link at all and there is no link between talc in contraceptives such as diaphragms and condoms (which would be close to the ovaries) and cancer.

Also, there does not seem to be a “dose-response” for talc, unlike with known carcinogens like tobacco where the more you smoke, the greater the risk of lung cancer.

—Posted by Donald Kaufman.

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