Latest News

Does talc powder cause ovarian cancer?
10 January 2020 IST
Does talc powder cause ovarian cancer?

Does using powder in the genital area increase the risk of ovarian cancer? A new data analysis of over 250,000 women found no link, but the authors urge caution as the study may not be large enough.


Some people use powder on their genitals to reduce moisture, friction, or odor.
Most powder products, which some people call talcum powder or baby powder, contain talc.
Whether there is a link between the use of powder and ovarian cancer is a controversial topic.
Several thousand women have filed lawsuits against a baby powder manufacturer after concerns that they developed ovarian cancer in response to using the product.
In the most extensive study to date, Katie O'Brien from the Chronic Disease Epidemiology Group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the United States National Institute of Health, and her co-authors try to address this issue.
"Ovarian cancer is a rare but deadly disease, and it is important to study possible risk factors for the disease if we want to learn how to prevent it," O'Brien told Medical News Today.
"Previous studies had reported a possible positive association between genital powder use and ovarian cancer, but my co-authors and I saw an opportunity to do a very large study that also addressed some of the potential limitations of the previous ones," she continued.
The study features in the journal JAMA.
Largest data set to date
For their study, O'Brien and her colleagues made use of four prospective cohort studies: the Nurses' Health Study, Nurses' Health Study II, Sister Study, and the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study.
"To our knowledge, these are the only cohorts that collected data on genital powder use," O'Brien explained to MNT on the choice of study population.
The team combined the data from all four cohorts to look for associations between powder use and an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. The total number of women included in the study was 257,044.
Across this data set, 39% of women reported having used powder in their genital area, of which 10% said they use such products long-term.
After excluding women who had missing data, there were 250,577 women in the study without ovarian cancer and 2,168 women who developed ovarian cancer during the follow-up period.
O'Brien calculated the estimated risk of developing ovarian cancer by the age of 70 and compared the group who used power to the group who didn't use powder.
"In this pooled analysis of four large U.S. cohorts, there was no statistically significant association between self-reported use of powder in the genital area and risk of ovarian cancer," the authors write in the paper.
The team did find a small effect when they analyzed a subgroup of women with intact reproductive tracts, but this did not reach statistical significance. In the paper, the authors write that "this finding should be considered only exploratory and hypothesis generating."
They explain that in women with intact reproductive tracts, powder can directly travel to the affected areas and cause irritation or inflammation. In women who have had their womb removed or their fallopian tubes blocked, powder doesn't have physical access to the ovaries.
Limitations and caution
O'Brien and her colleagues point to several limitations in their study.
Each cohort study measured powder use differently. It was particularly difficult to interpret the results the team obtained from analyzing frequency and duration of powder use.
All four studies only asked about powder use at the start of the study, and none had information about the type of powder. The data included predominantly white, educated women. Around half had a BMI of less than 25, which doctors class as a moderate weight.
The authors urge caution: "the study may have been underpowered to identify a small increase in risk."
"Despite being the largest study to date, it was not big enough to detect a small change in risk of ovarian cancer, which is a fairly rare cancer."
Katie O'Brien


In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Dana R. Gossett from the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California in San Francisco and Dr. Marcela G. del Carmen from the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard University Medical School in Boston, MA, highlight the difficulties of collecting enough data to analyze.
"Future analyses would be strengthened by focusing on women with intact reproductive tracts, with particular attention to timing and duration of exposure to powder in the genital area," they write. "Accumulation of such data will take many years, and given the low rates of current powder use among US women, may not be feasible."
"These are the only four large cohorts (to our knowledge) that have collected data on this topic. Therefore, it is unlikely that there will be another study capable of reaching or exceeding this sample size for a long time," O'Brien explained to MNT.


Related Topics


Trending News & Articles

12 Early Signs Of Lung Cancer To Never Ignore

Lung cancer is usually not noticeable during the early stages. Most people are diagnosed when the disease is at an advanced stage. According to, it is ...

Recently posted . 4K views . 2 min read

10 Amazing Benefits Of Bael (Kaitha)

Bael, also known as the “Wood Apple”, is a species native to India. The bael tree is considered to be sacred to the Hindus. A famous drink known as sh...

Recently posted . 3K views . 2 min read

11 Surprising Benefits Of Wood Apple Or Bael Fruit

The health benefits of wood apple include [1] relief from constipation, indigestion, peptic ulcer, piles, respiratory problems, diarrhea, and dysentery. It also b...

Recently posted . 3K views . 2 min read

8 Signs of Breast Cancer In Men

Breast cancer in men is very rare, with only one chance in one thousand (1/1000) of diagnosis. Even so, breast cancer in men is just as serious as that which wome...

Recently posted . 2K views . 2 min read


More in Food & Health

4 reasons why soaked and peeled almonds are better

While there is no harm in consuming unsoaked almonds, many people like to follow the advice of their grandmothers and have soaked and peeled almonds. But are soaked...

Recently posted. 827 views . 1 min read

5 Ways To Handle The Effects Of Menopause On Your Body

Most women are diagnosed as experiencing menopause between the ages of 45-55, after 12 months without a regular menstrual cycle. For some, however, the symptoms c...

Recently posted. 620 views . 2 min read

Express Recipes: Give your vegetable stir-fry a south Indian twist with Green Beans Thoran

Love south Indian food and can't resist the rich flavour of coconut? Try this healthy and mouth-watering Green Beans Thoran recipe that can be prepared with a d...

Recently posted. 1K views . 1 min read

Cheese Stuffed Falafel

Recently posted . 481 views

AIIMS doctors remove 15-kg tumour from uterus of 20-year-old woman

Doctors at the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here removed a 15-kg tumour from the uterus of a 20-year-old woman from Hapur in Uttar Prad...

Recently posted. 791 views . 1 min read

Natural Antibiotics That Kill Bacteria in Your Body

Medicines have looked a lot different before the modern medicine was introduced.  Our ancestors had to rely on the land to provide antibiotics and natural cure...

Recently posted. 1K views . 2 min read



  Thought of the Day

"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."
Albert Einstein

Be the first one to comment on this story

Post Comment
Shibu Chandran
2 hours ago

Serving political interests in another person's illness is the lowest form of human value. A 70+ y old lady has cancer.

November 28, 2016 05:00 IST
Shibu Chandran
2 hours ago

Serving political interests in another person's illness is the lowest form of human value. A 70+ y old lady has cancer.

November 28, 2016 05:00 IST
Shibu Chandran
2 hours ago

Serving political interests in another person's illness is the lowest form of human value. A 70+ y old lady has cancer.

November 28, 2016 05:00 IST
Shibu Chandran
2 hours ago

Serving political interests in another person's illness is the lowest form of human value. A 70+ y old lady has cancer.

November 28, 2016 05:00 IST

Back To Top