Talcum powder has been used for feminine hygiene for decades. However, a 2015 retrospective case-control study that linked the use of talc powder products to ovarian cancer has many women rethinking this familiar part of their daily routine.
Conducted by researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and published in the journal Epidemiology, the study asked 2,041 women with ovarian cancer and 2,100 without about their talcum powder use and found that women who regularly used talc products had an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Made from finely ground talc—a mineral comprised of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen—talcum powder absorbs moisture and prevents chaffing, which explains its use as part of a daily health and beauty regimen. Talc is also commonly found in a number of household and cosmetic products, including pressed and loose face powders and eye shadows.
Johnson & Johnson manufactures two of the most popular talc body powder products: Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. In recent years, the company has taken heat from customers who claim that it failed to disclose the risks associated with using their talcum powder products.
What Is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a serious disease that starts in the ovaries and can spread to other areas of the body. As the eighth most common type of cancer, it accounts for three percent of all cancers in women. Approximately 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Because early-stage ovarian cancer rarely causes symptoms, the disease is usually not diagnosed until it's in the late stages, when the cancer has spread throughout the pelvis and abdomen. Symptoms associated with ovarian cancer include:
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pelvic discomfort
- Bowel changes, such as constipation
- Premature feelings of fullness when eating
Ovarian cancer patients have a variety of treatment options, including surgical procedures, and chemotherapy or radiation treatments. However, late-stage ovarian cancer can be difficult to treat and is often fatal.
Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
When applied to the genitals, underwear, or sanitary napkins, talc grains enter the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, resulting in inflammation that may eventually lead to the development of ovarian cancer. The Epidemiology study found that using talcum powder in the genital area can increase a woman's risk of ovarian cancer by one third. Additionally, studies from as far back as the 1970s have noted the presence of talc particles embedded in ovarian cancer tumors and pelvic lymph nodes.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits
As the manufacturer of popular talcum powder products, Johnson & Johnson is facing more than 2,500 lawsuits from customers in the United States who claim they weren't warned about the risks associated with the use of talc products.
Juries sided with plaintiffs in several recent cases, awarding a total of more than $724 million in damages against Johnson & Johnson.
- February 2016: A St. Louis, Missouri jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer after using the company's talc products for 35 years, citing the company's failure to disclose the potential dangers of the products.
- May 2016: A jury in St. Louis, Missouri ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $55 million in damages to a South Dakota woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using the talc-based baby powder for more than 35 years.
- October 2016: A jury in St. Louis, Missouri awarded a California woman $70 million in damages, agreeing with her claim that using the talcum powder for feminine hygiene on a daily basis for 45 years caused her to develop stage 4 ovarian cancer.
- May 2017: A St. Louis, Missouri jury awarded $110.5 million in damages to a Virginia woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer she claimed was caused by using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for more than 40 years. The award included compensatory and punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson, as well as punitive damages against the company's talc supplier, Imerys Talc.
- August 2017: A Los Angeles jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million in damages to a California woman who was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer after using the company's talcum powder products daily since the 1950s. The sum is the largest awarded to a plaintiff in a Johnson & Johnson talcum powder case so far.
Johnson & Johnson announced plans to appeal all of the above cases.
Do You Need Help Pursing a Talcum Powder Case?
Were you diagnosed with ovarian cancer after years of using talcum powder products for feminine hygiene? If so, time is of the essence. Don't wait another minute to begin exploring your legal options.
McGartland Law Firm has 30 years of experiencing handling personal injury cases nationwide and is ready to help you fight for whatever compensation you deserve. Because our award-winning firm works on a contingency basis, you don't pay any legal fees unless we win your case. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your talcum powder ovarian cancer case.