Ovarian Cancer Awareness Booms As Talc Lawsuits Receive Media Attention

Consumer Goods

In 2015, former President Barack Obama issued a proclamation making September National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In comparison to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is October, Ovarian Cancer Month receives far less publicity, despite the fact that it’s the deadliest disease of the female reproductive system. 

However, ovarian cancer awareness is increasing, due to: the tens of thousands of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson (J & J) talcum powder, including high-profile multi-billion-dollar jury awards; the subsequent announcement by J & J that it will discontinue selling talc-based baby powder in North America; and a call for a global ban on talc powder by 170-some organizations.

Ovarian cancer, which is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths in women, is linked to talcum baby powder because particles of asbestos mineral can become mixed with talc mineral during mining operations. The two minerals are often found in close proximity to each other in the Earth. 

Asbestos is a carcinogenic ingredient. According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) there is no level of [asbestos] exposure which clinical effects do not occur. Therefore, all avoidable exposures to asbestos should be prevented whenever possible.

If talcum powder contains asbestos powder, and the powder is used in the genital area for several years, this puts users at greater risk for developing ovarian cancer. In addition, products containing asbestos particles have been linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma

According to Asbestos.com, government-funded research for ovarian cancer last year was only 13.33% of that for breast cancer ($20 million and $150 million, respectively). But because of the media attention on talc lawsuits, funding for ovarian cancer research this year has increased to $35 million. 

Asbestos.com says that new research reveals that talc and asbestos fibers in ovarian tumors match fibers found in talcum powder products, clearly establishing a link between gential use of talc powder and ovarian cancer. 

The study, published earlier this year in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine concluded that in the 10 women studied, evidence shows that the inhaled dose of asbestos/fibrous talc from “cosmetic” talc use causes ovarian cancer. 

Ovarian cancer, says the study co-authors, is known as the silent killer among oncologists. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 22,000 American women are diagnosed with the disease every year. Nearly 14,000 will fatally succumb to it every year.  


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