When it comes to products like baby powder and face powder, talcum powder is a popular — and effective — ingredient in keeping your skin dry and protected.
While talcum powder has a long history of use in the cosmetic industry, it has come under scrutiny for its potential link to cancer. Research has shown mixed results on the relationship between talc and various types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer and lung cancer.
This article will explore whether talcum powder causes cancer and how to reduce your exposure to talc in your everyday life.
When talc is mined and milled, it becomes talcum powder, which is commonly used in cosmetic products. Talcum powder is naturally absorbent, so it’s most often found in products that help keep your skin dry, such as baby powder or face makeup.
In its natural state, talc is often found in close proximity with asbestos, a hazardous substance that’s known to cause inflammation and lung cancer.
When talc is mined near asbestos, there’s the potential for cross-contamination to occur between the two minerals. This contamination can lead to talcum powder that contains asbestos.
Due to the potential danger of asbestos-containing talcum powder, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken a major role in setting safe guidelines for talc-containing products.
But this is a change from
Research on talcum powder and the risk of cancer is quite broad and covers various types of cancers, such as ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, and more.
Research concerning ovarian cancer and talcum powder use is inconsistent, which means researchers have not been able to definitively say there is not a connection between the two. There are likely a few reasons for this.
One reason might be because ovarian cancer is relatively rare, which can make it harder for researchers to study. An estimated
Another reason might be how researchers set up their study, which tends to affect their results. For example, long-term studies related to women who use talcum powder and track ovarian cancer tend to establish no relationship between the two.
But studies of women who are already diagnosed with ovarian cancer may sometimes find a potential connection between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.
A 2019 critical review of 30 studies related to ovarian cancer and talcum powder concluded some women may be at higher risk for ovarian cancer if they use talcum powder. They include:
- Hispanic women
- white women
- women (both pre- and postmenopausal) who use hormone therapy
- women who apply talcum powder to their underwear
The researchers of this study concluded there is a “possible” connection between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.
A more recent
Even with long-term use, the slight increase in risk was not found to be statistically significant.
The research on cervical cancer and talcum powder use is limited. In a
The researchers did not identify an association between genital talcum powder use and cervical cancer.
But this is one of the first studies that examined the potential connection. More research in this area is needed.
Very little research is available on the relationship between breast cancer and talcum powder.
But there’s no mention of any link between talcum powder exposure and breast cancer risk in this study or any other available literature.
Research on lung cancer and talcum powder primarily focuses on the increased risk of cancer from inhalation of talc. Although most people do not inhale large amounts of talc, workers who mine talc may be more at risk for talc inhalation.
Researchers believe this may be due to the increased exposure of other dangerous substances when mining talc but not milling it.
More recently, another
According to the researchers, this may be due to the inflammatory nature of talc when inhaled, which occurs regardless of asbestos content.
According to the
Unless you mine talc for a living, you can limit your exposure to talc by avoiding talc-containing cosmetic products. Baby powder, face powder, and other products that contain talcum powder can be substituted for safer products, such as pure corn starch.
If you do choose to continue using talc-containing cosmetics, make sure to do some research on the manufacturer to determine whether they have performed asbestos testing.
While it’s not always possible to know whether a product contains asbestos, taking precautions can help decrease your risk for exposure.
Although talcum powder has a long history of use as a cosmetic product, many people question whether it increases the risk of certain types of cancer.
Research on talcum powder and cancer is mixed, with some studies demonstrating only a small increase in risk for certain cancers and other studies demonstrating no increased risk. It’s still unclear why talc may be associated with some cancers.
If you’re concerned about your risk for cancer from exposure to talc, limiting the use of talc-containing cosmetics and products is the best way to reduce your risk.