Update: The Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits
As some may have heard, talcum powder has received a lot of attention lately due to the lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson. Many believe that their talc-based products, including Shower-to-Shower, can cause ovarian cancer.
Does talc cause cancer?
Over the last half century, there have been almost 40 peer-reviewed papers published in medical journals that explore evidence of a potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
These journals started with a study published in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Commonwealth in 1971, and it explored certain talc particles that had been found in three fourths of ovarian and cervical tumors extracted from thirteen women. Court documents reference that Johnson & Johnson started a campaign to fight against the study.
Many scientists have attempted to identify the exact role of talc in ovarian cancer since that initial study. Of course, each of these takes a different approach and should be viewed individually, but the majority have found a positive link between talc and ovarian cancer. Others state that they failed to find a link, but still believe that further research is necessary to determine whether or not talc is a cause definitively. The International Journal of Cancer has stated "there is a significant association between the use of talc in genital hygiene and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer that... warrants more formal public health warnings."
In 2017, a study from the European Journal of Cancer Prevention found "a weak but statistically significant association between genital use of talc and ovarian cancer." However, they do mention that there were issues with discrepancies between the studies, and recognize that their results may have been impacted.
In 2018, a study from Epidemiology stated that there is "a consistent association between perineal talc use and ovarian cancer." They also note that there is a level of variation regarding type of study and ovarian cancer subtype.
Can companies really be held accountable?
Legally, companies may be held liable when their marketing does not sufficiently warn consumers about potential harm that may occur due to use of their products. Therefore, Johnson & Johnson may be held accountable for knowing about a risk of ovarian cancer in regard to talc and did not warn consumers before using their products.
Bloomberg has stated that a total of 5,500 lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson just in regard to talcum powder. Women state that they developed ovarian cancer after they used the company's talc-based products regularly, such as Johnson's Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower Body.
Despite there being a dispute in the scientific community regarding the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration usually deems cosmetic-grade talc as a safe substance. However, because Johnson & Johnson was aware of the risk, as according to internal records dating back to over 40 years ago, and never informed consumers at the potential of harm that could come from using their products, the women affected may be successful in their fight against the company.
Even after Johnson & Johnson gained knowledge of the risk, they actively refused to put a warning on products that were based in talc. They also refused to alter their formula to protect that consumers from potential dangers. Experts suggest that cornstarch could have been substituted for talc, but Johnson & Johnson stood by their formula.
Read on to learn more about lawsuits that have been filed against Johnson & Johnson.