As many as 22,500 women every year are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a devastating form of cancer which develops in one or both of a woman’s ovaries. Once thought of as a disease associated with age and family history, ovarian cancer is now also understood to be connected to environmental risk factors, including the use of talcum powder.
According to a 2012 review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), ovarian cancer is one of four cancer types that can concretely be linked to asbestos exposure. Asbestos is widely known to have been used in building materials, but its use went far beyond that, often found in consumer products containing talcum powder or talc. Asbestos has been detected in baby powders and cosmetics such as lipstick, mascara, blush, eye shadow, foundation and even makeup for children. Female consumers who applied cosmetic powder products to their bodies may have unknowingly exposed themselves to asbestos and increased their risk of developing ovarian cancer. A Harvard Medical School study found that women who used talcum powder around their genital area had a 40 percent increased chance of developing this disease and even less frequent use of talcum powder products demonstrated an elevated risk of ovarian cancer. As a result, very recently, Johnson & Johnson discontinued distributing their iconic talc-based baby powders throughout North America.