There has been an article circulating on social media which says that a 1982 study implicates baby powder usage in ovarian cancer.

As early as 1982, studies have shown a link between baby powder and ovarian cancer in women. Findings have shown that women using talc­based powders are 300 times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer.

Is there any truth to this claim?

  • 1
    Earlier in the article it seems to say "33%" not "300 times" (not that I'm complaining about this question). – ChrisW May 5 '15 at 7:27

In 2008, there was a critical review of the evidence that using talcum powder in the perineal region might cause ovarian cancer.

Here is the paper:

The full-text of a draft submission for the paper is available here.

It found that,

  • several studies had found an association. (Keep reading, there is a twist!)
  • the relative risk was about 1.3 - which means 30% more likely, not 300 times more likely.
  • although talc has a similar classification to asbestos, it is not carcinogenic like asbestos.
  • the studies had a number of holes (e.g. inconsistent dose-response effects), raising concerns about their validity as evidence of causation.
  • there are inconsistencies between these findings and other studies of the safety of talc.

They conclude that these findings are NOT enough to conclude that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer:

Talc is not genotoxic. Mechanistic, pathology and animal model studies have not found evidence for a carcinogenic effect. In summary, these data collectively do not indicate that cosmetic talc causes ovarian cancer.

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