Referring to the recent Johnson & Johnson court case, a Thai oncologist recommends talc based products not be used on the body’s intimate parts.
Last October, Jacqueline Fox, 62 years old American, passed away from ovarian cancer. This death has raised a public health concern as her passing was caused by a long term baby powder usage. Fox was using Johnson & Johnson baby powder on her underwear since she was a teen. She then learned from a commercial that long term use of the baby powder might lead to ovarian cancer.
She was among other 1,200 women from across the US who was suing the company for failing to warn consumers of the risks associated with the mineral used in baby powder- talc.
Now, Fox’s story has caused unrest among baby powder users worldwide. Many wonder if they should stop using the talc based powder, while others had immediately stooped using it already.
Gynaecological oncologist Dr Chantawat Sheanakul urges consumers not to overly panic given the fact that a number of brands in the global cosmetic industry have used pure talcum since 1970s, which is found to have no connection with cancer. “Talc is a type of mineral that can be found naturally,” he explained. “It is composed mainly of magnesium silicate and hydrogen. In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos which is a substance known to cause cancers. But in the cosmetic industry, most brands do not use that any more. They only use pure talc.”
“But talc, if inhaled in a large amount, can accumulate in the lung which, in the long run, is likely to lead to pleuritis.”
Dr Chantawat cited the list of cancer classification from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) under the World Health Organization. The data states that talc that contains asbestos should be regarded as carcinogenic to humans while talc that does not contain asbestos is not classified as such. But importantly, the IARC has classified the perineal use of talc based body powder as possibly carcinogenic to humans. This means using talc based power in the area between the anus and the genital organs.
“There is also no study to back up if talc, when inhaled, can lead to lung cancer,” the oncologist added. “But talc, if inhaled in a large amount, can accumulate in the lung which, in the long run, is likely to lead to pleuritis (inflammation of the linings around the lungs).”
A while back, retrospective study was conducted in the US, said Dr Chantawat, to examine the connection between talc based powder and ovarian cancer. The study involved two groups of participants who were interviewed and questioned if they used body powder and how they used it. The finding was that people who fell victim to cancer of the ovary were found to use body powder more than those who were cancer free.
“So it has been reported based on the study that body powder might be associated with the development of ovarian cancer,” said the specialist. “However, the mechanism as to how the powder caused cancer wasn’t clearly investigated and therefore couldn’t be pinpointed.
“Personally I would suggest parents not to sprinkle the powder on baby’s bottoms, especially if it’s a girl.”
“Also interestingly, a number of these ovarian cancer patients, involved in the study, were found to sprinkle body powder on their genital organs, on the underwear, sanitary napkins or even condoms. Those who used the powder on other body parts were, however, not affected.”
Despite some benefits of body powder: absorbing moisture, soothing skin irritation and reducing skin friction, Dr Chantawat suggested that the powder should be used moderately and only in appropriate areas of the body. “Personally I would suggest parents not to sprinkle the powder on baby’s bottoms, especially if it’s a girl,” he said. “Neither do I think it’s wise to use the powder with private areas. Sprinkling it on the body, the armpit and the neck is fine.”
Information adapted from The Bangkok Post