Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter who you know, how much money you make, or whether you have an advanced degree. However, many environmental cancers seem to hit the working class folk.
For example, tradesmen and male veterans of the U.S. armed forces are still the most likely to develop mesothelioma cancer, caused by exposure to asbestos on-the-job. It’s unlikely that an upper class individual who never set foot in an asbestos-laden factory will be at high risk for this disease.
However, another kind of cancer caused by exposure to a particular substance is stretching far across class lines. That cancer is the ovarian type and that substance is talc. Talcum powder has long been used by women of all social classes, races, and ages. Many used the product as a feminine hygiene aid for decades, and some of those individuals have now been diagnosed with aggressive ovarian cancer.
It’s important to understand that in its natural form, some talc contains asbestos. All talc-based products sold in the U.S. were supposed to be asbestos free since around 1980, but that seems to be a matter of opinion.
Test results often show otherwise
Talc-based products have long been found on the shelves of drug stores and supermarkets. The names are familiar: Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, Cashmere Bouquet, several Mennen-manufactured products, and many others.
Those products have been deemed safe for the last several decades, however, that proclamation is up for debate.
Asbestos-containing talc wasn’t confined to $3 products one could buy off the shelves at Walmart. Coco Chanel long peddled expensive talc-based, potentially-dangerous products, including talc pads that retailed for $90 and were sold at upscale Nordstrom’s as recently as 2015.
This is despite the fact that there was already extensive evidence that talc was causing ovarian cancer among women who used the product in their genital area.
Just recently, a jury in Missouri ordered healthcare products company Johnson and Johnson to pay $55 million dollars to a woman who claimed that she developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s talc products for feminine hygiene purposes.
It was alleged in that suit that Johnson and Johnson knew about the dangers of using talc in its products yet failed to warn its customers. J&J denies those allegations and plans to appeal that verdict. Numerous similar suits against the company are in the works.
There have been numerous studies conducted to determine whether or not talc, in general, represents a risk to women. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, has determined the following:
- IARC classifies talc that contains asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans.”
- Based on the lack of data from human studies and on limited data in lab animal studies, IARC classifies inhaled talc not containing asbestos as “not classifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans.”
- Based on limited evidence from human studies of a link to ovarian cancer, IARC classifies the perineal (genital) use of talc-based body powder as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Recent publications by the American Cancer Society recommend that women use cornstarch-based products rather than talc-based products for feminine hygiene purposes. There is no evidence that talc is associated with any other kind of cancer, including lung cancer
As a result of the Johnson and Johnson case and the studies that indeed show an increase in ovarian cancer risk among talc users, more and more victims are heading to the courts to demand compensation for their suffering. This is a battle that will continue to grow as the word spreads.