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What is the connection between baby powder and cancer?

You are probably familiar with baby powder. Baby powder is a ubiquitous household item and a part of many Americans' daily routines. This simple, white powder can be indispensible for parents addressing aggravated diaper rashes. Many women also regularly employ its moisture-wicking properties as a part of their feminine hygiene routine.

However, you may have heard that manufacturers are facing lawsuits for cancer-causing agents in their baby powders. What should you know about baby power and the risk of developing cancer?

What carcinogenic substances are present in baby powder?

The key ingredient in baby powder, also known as talcum powder, is talc. Talc is a white mineral that is mined and then ground and refined into a powder. It is then used by consumers to wick moisture and reduce friction.

Industrial-grade talc and poorly refined talc may contain asbestos. Like talc, asbestos is also a mineral. The thought is that the mineral deposits from which talc is mined may be contaminated with asbestos. Asbestos exposure is directly linked to an increased risk of developing mesothelioma or cancer. While less likely, cosmetic grade talcum powder may contain asbestos as well.

The American Cancer Society has questioned the safety of supposedly "asbestos-free" talc. Some studies reveal a link between non-asbestos containing talcum powder and tumor growth.

How are talcum powder users at risk?

As previously mentioned, women commonly use talcum powder as a part of their feminine hygiene routine to reduce uncomfortable genital moisture. This is a practice many women have used for years. Some may be old enough to remember television and radio ads with the jingle: "Shower to shower each day helps keep odor away...".

Over the past few years, a growing number of women have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for their popular talcum powder. These women allege their repeated use of talcum powder produced ovarian and uterine cancers - dangers that the company should have warned of or avoided by using an alternative substance in the powder such as corn starch. Although less common, some women have alleged their repeated use of talcum powder caused peritoneal mesothelioma.

Talcum powder residue has sometimes been found inside the ovaries and tumors of women with cancer. Some studies show that talcum powder may increase a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer by as much as 33 percent.

Can you prevent talcum powder-related cancers?

Consumer-grade talcum powder is not supposed to have asbestos in it. The American Cancer Society is concerned about a possible link between commercial-grade baby powder and cancer. The safest approach is to avoid talcum powder entirely.

Instead, experts recommend using a cornstarch-based baby powder. So far, there is no reported danger associated with the cornstarch-based product.

During high school football games, you may have seen some students dumping baby powder on each other or spraying it into the air. This may be so intense that the hair, face, and clothing of some students become white. For reasons explained above, school administrators and parents alike should prohibit this behavior.

If you use talcum powder, or used it in the past, you may be at risk for developing ovarian or uterine cancers, or maybe even mesothelioma. It can take many years for the harmful agents to take affect and develop into cancer. If you used talcum powder and are diagnosed with cancer, contact an experienced attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you on potential course of action.

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