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Jury Finds Ovarian Cancer Linked to Talcum Powder

Published on Sep 30, 2014 at 8:28 am in Product Liability.

Last fall, a jury in Iowa found that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum products contributed to causing a woman’s ovarian cancer. While a link between talc and ovarian cancer had been shown over a decade ago, this was the first lawsuit filed against the company.

Studies Find Link between Talc and Cancer

In 2003, the Anticancer Research Journal published a review of multiple studies involving 12,000 women. Those studies found that weekly dusting of talcum powder in the perineal region increases a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 33%.

A 2013, a study in the Cancer Prevention Research Journal showed that using talc genital powder can increase a woman’s cancer risk by 20% to 30% over women who don’t use talc.

Despite this evidence, the use of talc isn’t regulated by the federal government. The American Cancer Society has cautioned women that they may want to avoid talc products, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer took the move to classify the use of talc powder in the genital areas as a “possible carcinogen.”

First Jury Verdict

The first lawsuit was filed by Iowa resident, Diane Berg. In 2006, Berg was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was 56 at the time, and for about 30 years she said she had used talcum products for hygiene, including J&J’s Shower to Shower.

The federal lawsuit was filed in 2009 against Johnson & Johnson and the talc mining companies Luzenac America and Rio Tinto Materials. Three medical experts who looked at Berg’s cancer tissue found talc and believed it was the cause. Harvard’s Daniel Cramer was one of the three, and he told the jury that talc probably contributes to 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer every year.

While the jury did not award the plaintiff Berg any damages, it did conclude that Johnson & Johnson should warn its customers of the link between their talc products and ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson claimed during the trial that talc was safe, and that the research has never been strong enough to prove a link. After the trial, the jury found enough evidence to at least require the company to put a warning label on its talc products.

More lawsuits are being filed around the country by women who contracted ovarian cancer after years of using Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder talc products for feminine hygiene. The suits allege that the company knew about and has withheld data about talc’s link to ovarian cancer.