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When you read a new study or expert opinion, it’s easy to be swayed one way or another. Even with talc’s long history of safe use in consumer products, some have questioned whether using talcum powder can increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer. We take any questions about our product’s safety seriously and as a result have dug deep into the evidence and science on talc. What we have found supports the expert opinion of the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query Editorial Board, which in April 2017 wrote, “The weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.” No government health authority has concluded that talc can cause ovarian cancer.
Understanding clinical studies
If you research long enough, you’ll find any number of interpretations related to a clinical study. When it comes to clinical research, it’s not practically feasible to conduct a prospective, randomized controlled trial to study the effects of a product over for a long period of time after it’s been used. In lieu of such studies, one highly reliable way to investigate whether there is an association between a product and a disease is by a prospective cohort study. In this type of study, groups of people are asked questions about different possible risk factors, including use of certain products, and then followed for a period of time to collect relevant data. Cohort studies have helped scientists understand the link between smoking and lung cancer, high cholesterol and heart disease, and many other health topics we consider common knowledge today.
Among the many studies that have confirmed the safety of talcum powder use are three major prospective cohort studies that included more than 180,000 women and were run for 6 to 24 years.
The Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) is the largest women’s health study ever conducted. This U.S. government-funded cohort study has looked into risk factors for major chronic diseases in women since 1976. Among many other breakthroughs, research from the NHS helped expose the link between smoking and heart diseases in women, and led to the development of hormonal therapies for breast cancer treatment.
The talc-use portion of the NHS included 78,630 women who were followed for 24 years, in total.8,9 They were asked whether they had ever used talcum powder on their genital area or on sanitary napkins. About 40 percent of women answered yes and were included in the talc-user group.8,9