Verdict was fourth against Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson was ordered on Monday to pay $417 million in damages to a Los Angeles woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson's Baby Powder for decades.

Thousands of women have sued the consumer products giant, claiming its talcum powder caused their ovarian and cervical cancers after they used it for years in their genital areas, The New York Times reported. The first evidence of a possible link came in 1971, when Welsh scientists discovered particles of talc embedded in ovarian and cervical tumors.

While only a handful of suits have gone to trial, most of the rulings have gone against the company. This latest decision appears to be the largest award to date, according to the newspaper.

In May, a Missouri jury awarded $110 million to a Virginia woman, a year after Missouri juries awarded $55 million to one plaintiff and $72 million to a woman who died before the verdict, the Times said. A South Dakota woman won a lawsuit, but the jury did not award damages.

Three other lawsuits, one in St. Louis and two in New Jersey, were rejected or dismissed, company officials told the newspaper.

Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said the company would appeal the latest verdict and was preparing for additional trials. The company "will continue to defend the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder," she said in a statement, the Times reported.

"Ovarian cancer is a devastating diagnosis and we deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by this disease," Goodrich noted. But, "we will appeal [the Los Angeles] verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder."

Though numerous studies have explored a possible link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer, the findings have been mixed. And most of the studies haven't been designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between talcum powder exposure and cancer, the newspaper reported.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified talcum powder as a possible human carcinogen if used in the female genital area, but no U.S. agencies have removed talcum powder from the market or added warnings, according to the Times.