No Conclusive Evidence to Prove Baby Powder Causes Cancer

Could the bottle of baby powder in your bathroom cabinet be dangerous? It’s an ongoing debate in the medical community, and according to the results of a new study, one that won’t be resolved anytime soon.

Talcum Powder and Cancer: Is There a Link?

To date, thousands of women have filed lawsuits against cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson claiming the talc in the company’s baby powder is contaminated.

At issue: whether the talc contains traces of asbestos — a toxic fiber that can be inhaled or ingested and lead to deadly diseases, like ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

Government-Supported Study Tests Link Between Baby Powder and Ovarian Cancer

The study, which was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), aimed to establish a firm link between baby powder use and ovarian cancer.

Researchers pooled data from four different long-running studies involving more than 250,000 women. Subjects were part of the Nurses’ Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study II, Sister Study, and Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study.

Results were divided between frequency or subjects who reported using baby powder in the genital area at least once a week, and long-term, or “ever-use” of 20 years or more.

Forty percent of the study subjects reported using baby powder. Of those, around 2,100 developed ovarian cancer within 11 years.

The findings didn’t show any statistically significant link between baby powder use in the genital area and cancer. A JAMA editorial that accompanied the study called the results “reassuring.”

The study’s lead author, Katie O’Brien, a scientist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, says the study was observational, which doesn’t prove cause and effect. Although the results aren’t definitive, she doesn’t expect to find more conclusive research, as fewer women are using baby powder overall.

“This represents the best data we have on the topic,” O’Brien told the Associated Press.

This particular study focused only on ovarian cancer and didn’t provide any answers or evidence for patients diagnosed with other asbestos-related diseases. Exposure to asbestos fibers, whether inhaled or ingested, is proven to cause mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affects the lining of the chest and abdominal cavities.

Patients Continue to File Lawsuits, Despite Contradicting Evidence

To date, Johnson & Johnson is facing more than 16,000 lawsuits involving its talc-based baby powder and cancer.

In October, the company voluntarily recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested a sample, which contained trace amounts of chrysotile asbestos. J&J conducted its own tests and didn’t find any traces of the carcinogen.

The company has vowed to appeal any case it loses in court, although it did reach a $2 million settlement with a mesothelioma patient in California. Representatives for Johnson & Johnson said all the company’s personal hygiene products are safe, and any product containing talcum powder is regularly tested for asbestos contamination.

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