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Talcum powder, or baby powder as it's sometimes called, seemed harmless enough before. But recently the stuff has gotten a reputation for its connection to ovarian cancer. Now, there is new evidence that use of the powder is strongly linked to ovarian cancer in African American women.
This is reportedly because African American women were targeted by talc manufacturers in advertisements, according to the study's principal investigator. Let's consider what researchers discovered as reported by Reuters Health.
According to Joellen Schildkraut, an epidemiologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who was the principal investigator in the study, "African-American women have been targeted for use of body powder, and they use it more commonly."
Schildkraut started out a skeptic of claims that there was a link between use of the powder and ovarian cancer risks. But she changed her mind by the time she was done with the study. Reports from women who said they regularly use the body powder seem to indicate that they were at greater risk for ovarian cancer than peers who didn't use it. Now, Schildkraut, the once-skeptical researcher, recommends that women avoid talc. "Why use it," she asked. "It's an avoidable risk for ovarian cancer."
Her team interviewed 584 women with ovarian cancer and 745 women without the disease, all black, reporting their findings in the publication Cancer Epidemiology. They found that nearly 63 percent of women with cancer and nearly 53 percent of those without all dusted themselves with the culprit powder.
Dr. Nicolas Wentzensen, head of clinical epidemiology for the National Cancer Institute, noted that African American women are underrepresented in many epidemiological studies and told Reuters Health that Schildkraut's research was well-conducted. It confirms previous studies describing an increased risk of ovarian cancer from talc use.
But, he said, the associations found in this latest study were higher than in previous studies; he blamed this on study participants' recall. He said that answers might have been influenced by recent reports of successful lawsuits against talcum powder product makers Johnson & Johnson.
Schildkraut said that recall bias was a factor she considered in her study but she believes that women do recall their use of such products. Regardless, her newfound skepticism of talc is supported by other researchers as well. Cancer genetics expert Dr. Steven Narod of Women's College Research Institute in Toronto recently wrote in an editorial, "In the interests of public health, I believe we should caution women against using genital talcum powder."
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