Talc is a mineral that is crushed into a powder commonly known as talcum powder. Talcum powder is used to absorb moisture, oils, and odors. It is a main ingredient in baby powders, foot powders, first aid powders, and some cosmetics. Talc is mined and then processed and reduced in size for powder use. Most people use common products every day that contain talc; however, the troubling fact is that talc has been linked to some serious health concerns, especially for women.
Concerns over the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer have been suspected from as early as 1971. One particular study found in The Lancet, a medical journal, and published in 1979, discusses talc found in normal and malignant ovarian tissue. The study found talc embedded in a majority of all ovarian tumors researchers studied.
That study was followed by another published in 1982 in the journal Cancer, which also found an association between talc powder and ovarian cancer. Since then, more and more studies have shown similar links between the use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene purposes and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
A 1992 study in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that women with exposure to talc in the genital area had a significantly greater risk when they applied it: 1) directly as a body powder, 2) on a daily basis, and 3) for more than 10 years. The study found that the greatest risk of ovarian cancer associated with talcum powder use was in the women who applied talc more than 10,000 times during the years when they were ovulating. The data in the study supported the idea that a lifetime pattern of talcum powder use for feminine hygiene purposes may increase the risk for epithelial ovarian cancer.
Additionally, a 1999 study in the International Journal of Cancer found that exposure of talcum powder prior to, rather than after a first livebirth, appeared to be more harmful to women. The authors of the study concluded that there is a significant association between the use of talcum powder for genital hygiene use and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. The authors even stated that this data warranted more formal public health warnings when it came to the use of talcum powder.
A more recent study published in Anticancer Research in 2003, concluded that use of talcum powder on female genitals increased the risk of ovarian cancer by about 30 percent.
Most recently, a study published in June 2013 in the medical journal, Cancer Prevention Research, found that women who used talcum powder for feminine hygiene purposes may increase their risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer by 20% to 30% compared to those who do not apply talcum powder.