Johnson & Johnson Owes £3.57 Billion In Ovarian Cancer Case

In mid July, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.69 billion (around £3.57 billion) to 22 women who said using the company's talcum powder for feminine hygiene caused ovarian cancer. If this sounds familiar, it's because these cases have been coming up for the past couple years, and there will likely be many more, because the company faces around 9,000 cases related to talcum powder, according to Reuters.
In this latest case, a St. Louis jury sat for weeks and heard testimonies from cancer survivors and family members of six women who died from ovarian cancer. The lawyer for the women told the New York Times it was "quite an emotional scene."
Advertisement
Following the verdict, Johnson & Johnson released a statement saying that they were "deeply disappointed in the verdict," and called it a "fundamentally unfair process." The company says that by presenting the women as a group, it "reflects that the evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice of this type of proceeding." And once again, they said that they are confident their products don't contain asbestos and don't cause ovarian cancer.
The research on the effects of talcum powder can be confusing for people to decipher, especially when massive lawsuits like this one make headlines so frequently. So, what do we know about the link? Well, a 2016 study on 2,000 women suggested that the association between ovarian cancer and talcum powder comes from talc — a mineral made up of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen, that absorbs moisture — not asbestos. (Talcum powder was made with asbestos until the 1970s.) Women in that study who used talcum powder on genitals, in underwear, or on pads had a 33% increased risk for ovarian cancer.
In addition to ovarian cancer, talc has been linked with an increase in lung cancer for talc millers and miners, who may inhale talc on the job, according to the American Cancer Society. In these cases, they're exposed to the pure, natural form of talc that may contain harmful materials that you wouldn't find in a talcum powder product — so it's not something to be concerned about.
Advertisement
Some experts say that these findings are not conclusive enough to say, talcum powder causes cancer. "Despite an observed association, several decades of medical research do not support the hypothesis that use of talcum powder causes ovarian cancer," Hal C. Lawrence, III, MD, EVP of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists told Refinery29 in 2016.
Ultimately, there are so many factors that contribute to a person's risk of getting cancer. With ovarian cancer in particular, genetics play a huge role, and about 25% of ovarian cancers are genetic. So, it's never as simple as saying that one specific thing causes cancer.
Even major government agencies aren't sure what the deal is. The American Cancer Society website says it's not clear that there is a link, and they suggest that people who are concerned about the effects of talcum powder should avoid it or limit their use. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organisation (WHO) agency responsible for identifying causes of cancer, classifies using talc powder on genitals as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
In general, though, it's not advised to use any products (including creams, gels, douches, and wipes) on your vaginal region, and that includes talcum powder.
Advertisement

More from Wellness

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Fashion
A look at the subcultures around the world that color what we wear — and why.
Watch Now
Travel
Explore the world's most most vibrant cultural and culinary centers—in 60 seconds, of course.
Watch Now
Beauty
The craziest trends, most unique treatments, and strangest subcultures in the beauty world.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Millennial survivor-woman Lucie Fink dives headfirst into social experiments, 5 days at a time.