Talc is a naturally occurring mineral found in baby powders as well as other cosmetics and personal care products. It is useful for absorbing moisture, cutting down on friction and preventing rashes.
For numerous years, parents used talc to diaper babies, until doctors began discouraging this use for health reasons. Many adults continue to use talc around their genitals to prevent chafing and sweating.
The American Cancer Society asserts that talc in its natural form may contain asbestos, a known carcinogen.
Because the powder is made up of such finely-ground particles, it might be able to travel up the mucus membranes in the vaginal canal and eventually work its way into the ovaries. Once at the ovaries the powder may cause inflammation and eventually cancer.
The Federal Drug Administration does not allow talc-based products to contain any asbestos. However, cosmetics don’t have to be reviewed or approved by the FDA before they land on store shelves, therefore there is no guarantee that they haven’t been contaminated.
Due to this concern, the FDA visited several retail outlets in the Washington, D.C. metro area and bought and tested a variety of cosmetic products containing talc cross a wide rage of prices. This was a study that ran from 2009 to 2010. They did not find any traces of asbestos in any of these products.
However, this study does not prove that all talc-based products are asbestos free.
Literature dating as far back as the 1960s has suggested a possible association between talc powders and ovarian cancer.
But the data is unclear. Some studies have not found a connection while others have only shown a small increase in risk. There are additionally a lot of different variables in these studies for researchers to consider.
In 2010, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that there is limited evidence on humans that using talc-based body powder on the genital areas is carcinogenic.
In 2013, a study analyzed about 20,000 people and found that those who used any type of powder on their genitals were 20% to 30% more likely to have ovarian cancer than those who didn’t use any powder. The findings led researchers to suggest avoiding genital powders as a strategy to reduce ovarian cancer incidence.
A 2014 study analyzed data from about 60,000 women and found no link between powder use and ovarian cancer risk.