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Court Rules Cancer Death Linked to Talcum Powder Use

February 26, 2016
Public Health

A Judge in the American state of Missouri has ruled that health care products company Johnson and Johnson must pay $72 million in damages to the family of a woman who claimed her ovarian cancer was linked to the long term use of talcum powder.

Jacqueline Fox, who died three years after being diagnosed, used the Baby Powder and Shower to Shower brands of feminine hygiene products for over 35 years. Jurors in St Louis decided that the company must pay $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages.

The company maintains that the safety of cosmetic talc “is supported by decades of scientific evidence.” Both products contain magnesium and silicone. Whilst agreeing that a link is possible Paul Pharoah, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, still considers the risks to be low; “The association is biologically plausible. Talcum powder applied to the genital area might get into the fallopian tubes and onto the ovaries and cause inflammation, which in turn could cause ovarian cancer,” he said.

“On balance, I think that it is more likely than not that there is an association between genital talc use and risk of some types of ovarian cancer, however it’s important to remember the size of the possible risk – a 20 year old woman in the UK has a risk of getting ovarian cancer at some point in her life of 18 in a thousand; a 20 per cent increase in this risk would raise this to 22 in a thousand.” More than 1,000 similar cases are pending in the United States.