Studies Linking Talcum to Ovarian
While doctors suspected talcum powder may have respiratory risks as early as the 1970s due to its similarities to asbestos, it wasn't until 1982 that the first targeted study revealed the potential risk of ovarian cancer.
Dr. Daniel Cramer of Harvard Medical School led a team of researchers that found women who used talcum powder either as a feminine moisture powder or on sanitary napkins had a 92% higher occurrence of ovarian cancer, while those who used both methods had a 328% increased risk.
In the years since, at least 16 independent studies have concluded there is a possible increased risk of ovarian cancer from the use of talcum powders for feminine hygiene. On average, they find a 33% increased risk from the substance.
Among these were a study from Washington State published in 1997 in the American Journal of Epidemiology that found women between the ages of 20 and 79 who had used talcum powder in the genital region were 50% more likely to have developed ovarian cancer.
In 2004, the International Journal of Cancer published a study from the Cancer Registry of Central California conducted from 2000 to 2001 that found women who had used talcum powder were 37% more likely to develop ovarian cancer. Interestingly, those who had undergone tubal ligation were less likely to have developed the disease.
In 2010, one of the largest studies to date on the subject was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health tracked over 66,000 women between 1982 and 2004, finding that those who had undergone menopause and used talcum powder for feminine hygiene were 21% more likely to develop endometrial cancer.
In 2011, a three-year study from the University of Illinois of over 2,000 women found that those who had used talcum powder for feminine hygiene after bathing had a 27% higher occurrence of ovarian cancer.
Finally, the latest study of the effects of talc powder on ovarian cancer, released in December of 2015, was led by none other than the doctor that started the discussion in 1982: Dr. Daniel Cramer.
Seeking to clarify what actual mechanism of injury may lead talc to increase ovarian cancer risks, Dr. Cramer's team followed over 4,000 women, half of which had been diagnosed with the disease. Researchers found that, in addition to an overall 33% increased risk with genital talc use, those women who had used the powder longer had an even greater risk.
Also, this was the first study to suggest that talcum powder may cause an inflammation response in the hormones estrogen and prolactin, leading to ovarian cancer.