Tuesday 23 January 2018

Talc link to cancer not proved, say experts despite $55m lawsuit

Legal difficulty: Johnson & Johnson talcum powder
Legal difficulty: Johnson & Johnson talcum powder
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Evidence linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer remains inconclusive despite a court jury in the US granting an award of $55m (€47.8m) to a woman who claimed it caused her to develop the disease.

There has been a long-standing concern that using talcum powder in the genital area could increase the risk of the disease.

However, it has never gone beyond "association" and there are no findings showing the powder is carcinogenic.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified genital talc as a "possible" cancer-causing agent. But a patient's unmeasured health and lifestyle factors may also be involved in any link to ovarian cancer, which affects 330 women in Ireland annually.

A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson in Ireland, the company at the centre of the US case, said yesterday that "30 years of studies by medical experts around the world, science, research and clinical evidence continues to support the safety of cosmetic talc". She said that two very large studies found no association with cancer, although some epidemiology studies have reported an association.

The company plans to appeal the verdict in the US, which was handed down following a three-week trial in a Missouri state court.

The woman, Gloria Ristesund, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 after using the talc for decades. She is now in remission. The company faces 1,200 similar claims.

Ovarian cancer charity Ovacome has also said there was no definitive link with cancer.

It said the worst-case scenario was that talc increases the risk by a third.

Meanwhile, the Cork-based Breakthrough Cancer Research has highlighted that World Ovarian Day takes place on Sunday and it is encouraging women to be aware of key signs of the disease.

They are urged not to ignore persistent abdominal symptoms, which can include:

  • Bloating that is persistent and doesn't come and go
  • Eating difficulties and feeling full more quickly
  • Abdominal and pelvic pain you feel most days.

More than eight in 10 cases of ovarian cancer occur in women over the age of 50.

A woman with two or more close relatives , including mother, sister or daughter, who develop ovarian cancer or breast cancer, have an increased risk of developing the disease.

If relatives develop cancer before the age of 50, it's more likely it is the result of inherited faulty genes.

Irish Independent

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