Over four decades of medical research suggest that talc-based products may cause ovarian cancer. Few women, however, are aware of this fact.
Legal experts say the talcum powder litigation has only begun. Our experienced cancer attorneys can help. Do you have a case? Speak with a Talcum powder lawyer today.
In thousands of product liability lawsuits, women across the country accuse Johnson & Johnson of hiding a scientific link between the company’s popular talcum powder products and ovarian cancer.
Though all cancers can eventually spread throughout the body, a cancer’s type is identified by the organ or organs where the malignancy first arose. Ovarian cancer, for example, starts in the cells of the ovaries, a pair of female reproductive organs that produce eggs and secrete key sex hormones.
Ovarian cancer is a relatively rare disease, according to statistics from the National Cancer Institute. Only around 0.012% of American women are diagnosed with the condition each year, while more than 10-times as many women, about 0.125%, will be diagnosed with breast cancer. However, ovarian cancer remains a leading cause of death, responsible for the fifth-highest number of cancer deaths in women. Every year, ovarian cancer claims more lives than any other cancer originating in the female reproductive system.
There are over 30 subtypes of ovarian cancer, which are grouped into 3 major categories depending on the particular kind of ovarian cell that is affected. Ovaries are comprised of:
Ovarian carcinomas, cancers that begin in epithelial cells, are most common. Unfortunately, carcinomas are also the deadliest form of ovarian cancer, in large part because they are extremely difficult to diagnose. Current research on the risks of talcum powder use, especially when applied as a dusting to the perineal area, suggests that the product can increase the risk for epithelial-type ovarian cancers.
Germ cell tumors are distinctly rare, occurring most often in young women, including teenagers. Thankfully, around 90% of women with germ cell ovarian cancers can be cured, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition reports. Stromal cell cancers are probably even less common than germ cell tumors, accounting for just 2% of all ovarian cancers. Most stromal cell tumors are caught early, during the first stage of cancer, leading to good prognoses in most cases.
As with any cancer, early diagnosis is crucial, because the further cancer progresses, the more challenging it is to treat. Stages of ovarian cancer are determined both by the degree that the cancer has spread through the body and by the grade of the malignant tumors, which refers to the appearance and behavior of the tumor cells. Low-grade cancer cells still share significant similarities with normal cells, while high-grade cells may barely resemble their healthy counterparts.
Treatment for ovarian cancer often begins with surgery, the medical experts at Medscape say. “Debulking” procedures are designed to excise, or remove, as much of the malignant tissue as possible. The patient may also be advised to undergo additional surgeries, in an attempt to remove more tissue or entire organs that are particularly susceptible to metastasis, or that may contribute to the progression of cancer through hormonal means. For example, undergoing hysterectomy may help significantly in preventing the spread of ovarian cancer.
After surgery, ovarian cancer patients are often placed on a chemotherapy or hormone therapy regimen to help fight any remaining malignant cells left in the body.
In its early stages, ovarian cancer rarely displays any symptoms at all. With that being said, women are advised to watch closely for the following signs:
Gastrointestinal symptoms are relatively common, because the ovaries lie close to the bladder and intestines. But again, these symptoms won’t occur in all women with ovarian cancer. To complicate matters, each of these potential signs is more likely to be caused by a benign, or non-cancerous, condition. The key to ovarian cancer symptoms is their persistence, length and abnormality. More often than not, the signs of ovarian cancer tend to persist for longer periods of time, and also tend to be more frequent. The American Cancer Society suggests that women who experience potential symptoms of ovarian cancer more than 12 times in a month seek out the guidance of a gynecologist.
One of the reasons why patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer tend to have a poor prognosis is because many of the disease’s early symptoms are “nonspecific.” This means they can easily be mistaken for signs of other illnesses or conditions, making the cancer difficult to identify until it has reached an advanced stage. Tragically, it’s often only after ovarian cancer has already spread significantly through the body that doctors are able to conclusively diagnose the disease.
Though the precise causes for ovarian cancer are still poorly understood, medical researchers have established many probable risk factors for the disease by collecting and analyzing statistical data on ovarian cancer patients.
Sadly, most of these risk factors are impossible or difficult to control, including:
Unlike with some cancers—such as cervical cancer, which is known to be predominantly caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and thus can be mostly prevented with the HPV vaccine—ovarian cancer is not yet understood well enough to establish surefire preventative measures.
Fortunately, there are several practices that patients can perform that may be able to reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer:
Scientists are still trying to make sense of known risk factors and identify the precise causes of ovarian cancer. A clear understanding of the mechanisms behind ovarian cancer would help tremendously in prevention efforts as well as the continuing development of effective treatment methods. The cancer’s rarity and difficulty of diagnosis makes it particularly challenging to study.
Still, researchers have made significant headway with 3 major theories on the possible origins of epithelial ovarian cancer:
Currently, none of these theories seem to adequately explain all of the known risk factors for ovarian cancer. Researchers believe that there could be multiple mechanisms for ovarian carcinogenesis, so it could be that all three of these hold merit. Meanwhile, experts urge women, especially those who already possess multiple risk factors, to carefully consider the few risk factors that can be controlled and to discuss possible preventative measures with their doctors.
One of the most easily-controlled possible risk factors is genital use of talcum powder. Though doctors point out that this common practice is purely cosmetic, with no medical benefits whatsoever, thousands of women around the world make it part of their daily routine.
Unfortunately, this is likely because most people are simply unaware of the possible risks, even though over 45 years of research suggests that dusting genitals, underwear, or sanitary pads with talc can elevate ovarian cancer risk anywhere from 24% to over 300%.
Cancer patients who are filing talc lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn consumers of talc risks accuse the manufacturer of ignoring or even concealing decades of research identifying a link between elevated ovarian cancer risk and talcum powder use on the female genitals.
Many women express utter shock after being informed that ovarian cancer may be a side effect of talcum powder. Talc products, such as baby and body powders, have been and still are promoted as safe and “gentle” by leading manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson. Deane Berg, for example, the first woman to file a talc lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and its talc suppliers, speaks in interviews about the moment she discovered that talc was an ovarian cancer risk factor. Prior to that time, she’d used talc for feminine hygiene as a comforting daily ritual – she’d never imagined that her Johnson’s Baby Powder could possibly harbor serious risks.
Continue Reading: Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder TV Commercial
National Cancer Institute: Cancer Stat Facts: Ovarian Cancer
American Cancer Society: Talcum Powder and Cancer