Does talcum powder cause cancer? Tough to say

Although a number of studies over the past 40 years have linked genital talc use to ovarian cancer, it’s hard to tell if using talcum powder can actually cause the disease.

“There is no way we’re ever going to know for certain that any exposure is necessarily causal to a disease,” said Shelley Tworoger, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a May 23, 2016 New York Times article. The article details how, over the past decade, thousands of women with ovarian cancer have sued Johnson & Johnson, makers of Johnson’s Baby Powder, claiming that the powder caused their disease and citing the many studies linking talc to cancer.

Tworoger said it’s plausible that talc particles—which have been found in women’s tumors—are causing cancer, because they can trigger inflammation, which is thought to play a key role in the development of ovarian cancer. But even if “we might be 99 percent sure” that talc led to cancer, she added, “there’s usually no way to guarantee that what you see is actually the truth.”

Read the New York Times article: Lawsuits Over Baby Powder Raise Questions About Cancer Risk