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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

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Analysis Finds Link Between Talc Powders, Ovarian Cancer


Whysner writes that most studies have found that an increased risk for ovarian cancer is associated with exposure to talc power. "None [has] found an increased risk associated with ... cornstarch powders," he says.

Charles J. Dunton, MD, a professor of gynecology and oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, tells WebMD, "There's not a cause for women to get overly upset if they've used talc in the past. The association is not that strong, and besides, it's all statistics, and there might be ... factors that cause the statistics to be inaccurate."

Also, because asbestos used to be found in talc powders, some of the early findings may be distorting the current picture, Dunton says. "Most of the baby powders now contain cornstarch rather than talc, but there are products like Shower-to-Shower that contain a lot of talc. ... Although the risk is very minimal, I would avoid talc in the [vaginal] area. That's the take-home message."

Ira Horowitz, MD, PhD, professor and vice chairman of gynecology/obstetrics and director of gynecologic oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, tells WebMD, "What I tell my patients is that there looks like there might be a causal relationship between talc and ovarian cancer ... [but] there's a lot we don't know."

  • A new study has shown that dusting the vaginal area with powders containing talc may slightly increase a woman's risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Talc is a mineral compound similar to asbestos, and the two are often found together in geological formations, which might explain the increased cancer risk.
  • Women should opt for cornstarch over talc powders. But there's no need to panic, as the increased risk of cancer is small, asbestos contamination is better controlled today than in the past, and the information on any association between talc and cancer is not complete.
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