Scientific Association of the European Talc Industry aisbl

Is there a link between talc and ovarian cancer?

A number of case-control studies in the USA have suggested that the frequent use of body powders containing talc by women in the genital area may be a risk factor in ovarian cancer. This suggested link is highly controversial as any observed difference has been slight.

The results of two recent studies published by the Harvard Medical School (Gertic DM et al, Abstract) and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York State (Wong C et al, Abstract) suggest, for the first (a prospective study), that there is little evidence of such a link, and, for the second, that there is no evidence of such a link.

In October 2005, the United Statesí National Toxicology Program (NTP) ruled that existing scientific data were insufficient to identify talc as a cancer causing agent and talc was subsequently withdrawn from review for the 12th Federal Report on Carcinogens (RoC). 

However, On February 14, 2006, the World Health Organizationís International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) completed its 6-month reassessment of the potential carcinogenicity of talc not containing asbestos or asbestiform fibres. Whilst the Working Group concluded that there was inadequate evidence for the carcinogenicity to humans of inhaled talc, it reached a different conclusion regarding the application of talc-based body powder in the genital (perineal) area. Although the studies reviewed do not differentiate between this use of talc and the many other habits and factors that influence womenís health, the Working Group concluded that the epidemiological studies provided limited evidence for the carcinogenicity of the perineal use of talc-based body powder and classified this use as possibly carcinogenic to human beings, Group 2B, i.e. a positive association was observed, but chance, bias or confounding factors cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence. As context, the ruling places the perineal use of talc-based body powder in the same IARC category as many other common practices, such as drinking coffee.

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