Does Baby Powder Cause Cancer?

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When talking about whether or not talcum powder is linked to cancer, it is important to know the difference between powder that contains asbestos and talc that is asbestos-free. Back in the day (prior to 1973), talcum powder that had asbestos in it was generally accepted. It was later found as being able to cause cancer if it is inhaled. This type of talc is not used in modern consumer products.

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After 1973, a law changed the way that talcum powder products were made, and asbestos had to be removed.

One study suggested genital talcum powder use may slightly increase the risk of uterine cancer in women who are past menopause. But other studies have found no such a link. Further studies are needed to have a clear answer.

The Nurses’ Health Study on this subject is thought to be the best and largest study on the relationship between talc and ovarian cancer.

Recently, researchers analyzed the data from 16 studies done on the subject. They found that women who used talc were at a 33 percent greater risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who did not — but how much talc they used or how frequently they used it did not affect their risk.

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Another recent case report from Harvard Medical School discussed one woman who used talcum powder in her genital area daily for 30 years and developed ovarian cancer (of the serous subtype). A test found what appeared to be talc in the lymph nodes of her pelvis, which indicates that additional studies might be needed to confirm whether there is a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

So What Should You Do?

Since research hasn’t identified a strong connection between the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer, there is no reason to stop using talc products altogether.

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For women who are concerned about the possibility of a link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder but still want to continue using a powder, there is an alternative: Switch to powders made with cornstarch, which has not been associated with any cancer.