Canada: Prolonged Use Of Baby (Talcum) Powder Linked To Ovarian Cancer

Last Updated: January 22 2018
Article by Paul Miller

Its aroma is so distinctive, yet equally indescribable. But catching just a trace of the sweet scent of baby powder is probably enough to evoke memories of freshly changed diapers, cleansing cosmetics, or subtle air fresheners.

Yet this product, which is synonymous with the words fresh and clean, has also been linked to a deadly disease – ovarian cancer. More than 2,800 Canadian women will be newly diagnosed with the fifth most common and most serious cancer in women this year. A variety of genetic and environmental factors may contribute to increasing a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer. In this blog post, I explore some research into the long-term use of baby (talcum) powder and why the manufacturer would prefer if you would focus on its pleasant smell instead of its potentially carcinogenic properties.

Talcum Powder and Cancer

Derived from the mineral talc, which contains the elements magnesium, silicon, and oxygen, ground up talcum powder has been used for more than a century to absorb moisture and prevent friction from skin-to-skin contact. Along with corn starch, it is commonly used as a baby powder to treat diaper rash, and other cosmetics.

In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, but this form has not been sold commercially for decades. Talc containing asbestos is a known carcinogen that can cause cancer when ingested, usually when its asbestos containing fibres are breathed in, and people whose occupations or personal relationships put them in close and frequent contact with these fibres have an increased risk of developing cancer.

However, studies dating back to the 1970s have also raised concerns that asbestos-free talcum powder may also increase a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer by a third when applied regularly and over a long-term on her genitals.

Ovarian Cancer

Abnormal and uncontrollable growth of any one of a variety of types of ovarian cells can result in malignant tumours causing ovarian cancer. About 90 per cent of these cancers affect epithelial cells which cover the lining of the fallopian tube or ovary. Another five to 10 per cent of ovarian cancers affect the germ cells from which eggs form. The least common type of ovarian cancer, affecting the sex cord stromal cell, involves the cells that hold the ovaries together and produce female hormones.

All women have some risking of developing ovarian cancer, but certain factors increase that risk:

  • Age –risk increases with age and ovarian cancer is most common in women aged between 50-79.
  • Genetics and Ethnicity – a close familial/blood relation who have had breast cancer prior to age 50 or ovarian cancer at any age. Certain ethnic groups also have higher overall rates of ovarian cancer.
  • Reproductive History and Hormone Replacement – women who had not given birth or have had difficulty conceiving are at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, as are those who have taken hormone replacements. Women who have used oral contraceptives for a period of at least five years are at a lower risk.
  • Endometriosis – Women with this condition, where tissue that normally grows in the uterus grows on fallopian tubes and ovaries, are also at a higher risk.

Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

Although vigorously contested by baby powder manufacturer, scientific research conducted since the 1970s has established a direct link between long-term use of the substance and an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. In fact, when talcum powder is applied directly to a woman's genitals or on items such as underwear, sanitary napkins, tampons or diaphragms which come into contact with the genitals, case control studies suggest the risk of developing ovarian cancer rises by about 33 per cent.

The reasons why and how regular and long-term talcum powder use increases the risk of ovarian cancer are not fully known, but experts such Dr. Daniel Cramer speculate that the substance may enter the vagina, eventually make its way up the genital tract, and cause chronic tissue inflammation which is known to predispose a person to developing cancers. One case Cramer has studied found evidence of the mineral talc in the pelvic lymph nodes of a woman who had used the powder on her genitals for decades.

This type of evidence and expert testimony has been compelling in American jury trials where women with ovarian cancer (or families acting on behalf of their deceased loved ones) have been awarded tens of millions of dollars – both compensatory (for actual losses) and punitive (for manufacturer's failure to warn consumers about talcum powder's cancer risks).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions