The link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer is not necessarily a clear one. Plaintiffs in lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson say studies conducted as early as the 1970s have shown the powder could be linked to ovarian cancer. Further, plaintiffs allege, Johnson & Johnson knew about this link but did not act on it or warn consumers.
Ovarian cancer is relatively rare. According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer only accounts for 3 percent of cancers among women. But it is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women, and is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
Although there have been studies done on the potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, the studies concerning talcum powder have returned mixed results. Even the American Cancer Society will only say that findings have been mixed. While some studies have shown a small increased risk, others have found no increased risk.
“For any individual woman, if there is an increased risk, the overall increase is likely to be very small,” the American Cancer Society notes. “Still, talc is widely used in many products, so it is important to determine if the increased risk is real.”
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In the same lawsuit claims of 22 studies conducted since 1982, “nearly all” found an elevated risk of ovarian cancer in women who reported genital talc use. Pathology reports on some ovarian cancer tumors have reportedly found talc particles inside the tumors.
As Johnson & Johnson evaluates its options - it is likely to file an appeal of both awards against it - more women are filing lawsuits against the company, arguing they should have been made aware of the potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.