1987 Study Shows Perineal Exposure to Talc and Ovarian Cancer Risk

May 20th, 2016 Ovarian Cancer, Talcum Powder
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A 1992 published study shows an increased risk between long-term talcum use and ovarian cancer. This issue has been long debated and discussed for over 35 years in the medical and manufacturing community, yet major corporations like Johnson & Johnson made the decision not to add warning labels to their products.

How many women would have chosen not to use talcum powder if they knew about the risks?

It looks like now, women are getting their chance to speak up, and let J&J know how angry they are about not having been given the choice. Over 1,200 lawsuits are now pending against Johnson & Johnson because they failed to warn women for years about the potential risks of ovarian cancer and regular talcum use.

Below are the results of just one of many studies that were conducted by medical experts in their field, associated with highly credentialed medical hospitals. The study results below are from just a small test sampling of 235 women, and the results show a direct connection to long term, heavy talc use and risk of ovarian cancer.


We sought to determine whether the use of talc in genital hygiene increases the risk for epithelial ovarian cancer.


We interviewed 235 white women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer between 1984-1987 at ten Boston metropolitan area hospitals and 239 population-based controls of similar race, age, and residence.


Overall, 49% of cases and 39% of controls reported exposure to talc, via direct application to the perineum or to undergarments, sanitary napkins, or diaphragms, which yielded a 1.5 odds ratio (OR) for ovarian cancer (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.0-2.1). Among women with perineal exposure to talc, the risk was significantly elevated in the subgroups of women who applied it: 1) directly as a body powder (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.1-2.7), 2) on a daily basis (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.1-3.0), and 3) for more than 10 years (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.0-2.7). The greatest ovarian cancer risk associated with perineal talc use was observed in the subgroup of women estimated to have made more than 10,000 applications during years when they were ovulating and had an intact genital tract (OR 2.8, 95% CI 1.4-5.4); however, this exposure was found in only 14% of the women with ovarian cancer.


These data support the concept that a life-time pattern of perineal talc use may increase the risk for epithelial ovarian cancer but is unlikely to be the etiology for the majority of epithelial ovarian cancers.

Obstet Gynecol. 1992 Jul;80(1):19-26.

Harlow BL1, Cramer DW, Bell DA, Welch WR.

Author information

Obstetrics and Gynecology Epidemiology Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

Contact Morelli Law Firm

If you or a loved one were a regular J&J talcum powder user and received a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, contact our firm for help. Your diagnosis may be linked to talcum powder use. Call the Morelli Law Firm at 800-701-8800 to learn how our leading Personal Injury attorneys may be able to help.