Johnson & Johnson Ordered To Pay $55 Million For Talcum Powder Causing Ovarian Cancer

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Pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been ordered to pay more than $55 Million in compensation to an American woman who says its talcum powder caused her ovarian cancer.

Gloria Ristesund, 62, said she used J&J talc-based powder products on her genitals for decades.

This case follows another one in February, in which Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72m to the family of a woman who claimed her death was linked to use of the company’s Baby Powder talc.

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Jackie Fox from Birmingham, Alabama died of ovarian cancer last year, aged 62, having used the talc for decades.
Jackie’s family argued that the firm knew of talc risks and failed to warn users.

Ms. Ristesund was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 and had to undergo a hysterectomy and related surgeries. Her cancer is now in remission.

Following a three-week trial in a Missouri state court, she was awarded $5m in compensatory damages and $50m in punitive damages.

Jere Beasley, whose firm represents Ms Ristesund, said his client was gratified with the verdict. The jury’s decision should “end the litigation”, he said, and force J&J to settle the remaining cases.

But does it really cause cancer?

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

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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.

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.

“The evidence about asbestos-free talc, which is still widely used, is less clear,” the American Cancer Society said. Some studies on animals have shown that talc can cause tumors, but others have not. Studies exploring potential links between talcum powder an ovarian cancer in women who use talc-based feminine hygiene products have also had mixed results. The most reliable types of studies, which don’t rely on a woman’s memory of whether she used talc, have shown no evidence talcum powder causes ovarian cancer.

“No increased risk of lung cancer has been reported with the use of cosmetic talcum powder,” the American Cancer Society says.

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