It isn’t uncommon for most women to have a bottle of baby powder in their bathroom cabinets even if they don’t have babies themselves. A lot of women sprinkle baby powder between their legs to prevent chafing, especially during their periods. Some even use baby powder to absorb extra sweat and deodorize the area. However, there have been many theories floating around about how using baby powder around your genitals can actually lead to ovarian cancer. A popular brand for baby powder was even forced to pay millions of dollars by a court to a woman who claimed that their powder gave her ovarian cancer. So how much truth do these theories hold?
Studies Have Not Been Conclusive
The American Cancer Society examined the research conducted on the effects of baby powder and found that the results were “mixed”. Certain studies have found a slightly higher risk for ovarian cancer among women who regularly used baby powder. Other studies found absolutely no evidence of baby powder leading to ovarian cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organisation, has classified baby powder as possibly carcinogenic but reiterates the fact that not enough conclusive evidence has been found.
A lot of the fear around baby powder stems from the fact that it used to contain asbestos. Prior to the 1970s, the effects of asbestos were still not fully understood, so there were no restrictions on its usage. However, once asbestos was identified as a dangerous carcinogen, it became a banned substance. Today, all talc products are legally required to be completely free from asbestos. What’s more, many powders today have a cornstarch base, which is completely safe to use around the genital area.
How Can Talc Lead To Ovarian Cancer?
While researchers are still not sure is talc has a definite link with ovarian cancer, they have a theory about how it may lead to it. When you sprinkle talc liberally around your genitals, it can make its way up your reproductive tract through your vagina. Once it is inside you, your body identifies it as a harmful invader. To fight it off, it causes an inflammatory immune response. This response can potentially lead to an abnormal overgrowth of cells and cause ovarian cancer.
Researchers also postulate that the longer a woman has been using talcum powder, the higher her risk of developing ovarian cancer is. This is known as the dose-response effect and has been observed in women who have not hit menopause, are overweight and who do not smoke. What studies have been unable to find is how much talcum powder can potentially be dangerous. Finding this threshold could help women regulate their use of baby powder.
Other Factors Which Can Lead To Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is a very rare type of cancer. While talcum powder is still not a definitive cause for ovarian risk, there are many other factors which could pose a risk. These factors have been scientifically proven and aren’t just theories like talcum powder is. Two of the biggest factors that can make women predisposed to developing ovarian cancer is a family history of ovarian cancer and a family history of breast cancer. If you have either or both of these factors, then you should schedule regular check-ups. If ovarian cancer is caught in the early stages, it can be treated with greater success.
Studies have also shown that women who have used oral contraceptives like birth control pills for at least 5 years have an almost 50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer, compared to women who have never used these pills. Focusing on these risk factors can be a lot more useful than worrying about talcum powder. When doctors try to determine the causes or risk factors for their patients developing ovarian cancer, talcum powder is the last thing they pay attention to. You can always cut out baby powder from your routine if that makes you feel safer, but there isn’t enough compelling evidence that you need to.