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Talc, asbestos and cancer: 5 things to know

Injured people or their families have filed thousands of cases against Johnson & Johnson involving ovarian cancer caused by personal hygiene products such as Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.

An increasing number of lawsuits are alleging those same talc-based personal hygiene products also cause other types of cancer, including mesothelioma.

Here are five important things to know about talcum powder cases.

In July, a jury found in favor of a group of women who developed ovarian cancer after using talcum powder products made by Johnson & Johnson.

The jury awarded all 22 defendants and their loved ones $25 million each, for a total of $550 million in compensatory damages. With the addition of $4.14 billion in punitive damages, the total verdict against J & J came to $4.69 billion.

Last month, a judge from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis affirmed the verdict. The jury award is the largest so far against the company in a talcum powder injury cases. Johnson & Johnson is appealing the verdict.

Over half of ovarian cancer diagnoses are estimated to be terminal.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 22,240 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2018 and that 14,070 will die as a result. This means over 60 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will die from it.

To be sure, survival rates increase the sooner the disease is diagnosed. But ovarian cancer is a tough type of cancer to beat.

There are two main theories for how talcum products cause ovarian cancer.

In many ovarian cancer cases, women contend that talc traveled to their ovaries by way of the fallopian tubes, and that the talc itself is what caused the malignancy. Alternatively, some women contend that their ovarian cancer was caused not by the talc itself, but by millions of asbestos fibers contained within the talc.

This is what the plaintiffs did in the $4.69 billion case mentioned above. Depending upon the type of cancer involved, this theory of liability (that the talc is contaminated with asbestos) may also be used in other talcum-powder based cancer cases.

Asbestos in talc exposure has been linked to other health problems.

Ovarian cancer is not the only health concern associated with talcum powder. In fact, talc contaminated with asbestos has also been linked to lung cancer, mesothelioma and other respiratory diseases. These are just a few of the many health concerns some scientists have raised regarding products containing these ingredients.

It can take up to 50 years for diseases to appear.

Asbestos-related diseases take anywhere from 10 to 50 years to develop after exposure. As such, many women do not realize that exposure to Johnson & Johnson products containing talc or asbestos-contaminated talc-the same products J&J advertised as safe to use on babies-has put them or their loved ones at risk of harm.

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