When you see talcum powder on a product label, you probably assume it’s a-OK, but according to data from the American Cancer Society, talcum powder might be linked to cancer.
Talcum powder is great at absorbing moisture and preventing chafing, so it’s no surprise that it’s in a slough of different conventional beauty products. You can also find talc in commercial products like disposable cutlery.
“Some studies have shown an increase in ovarian cancer rates when talc is applied in and around the genital area. A look at 16 studies showed there was a 30 percent increase in ovarian cancer risk among those people using talc, but some studies have shown a much smaller risk. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) ‘classifies the perineal (genital) use of talc-based body powder as possibly carcinogenic to humans.'”
Studies have also found a correlation between using talcum powder and an increase in womb cancer, and talc miners are more prone to lung cancer than the average person.
Natural talc – the substance used to make talcum powder – naturally contains asbestos, and this type of talc is no longer in use in consumer products, but the studies referenced above looked at asbestos-free talc.
Before You Freak Out
The American Cancer Society cautions that these studies – mostly animal studies, and not human – are preliminary. That means more research is needed before asbestos-free talc can be labeled a carcinogen. Correlation is not the same thing as causation, so these early results just mean we need more research.
That said, I’m a believer in the precautionary approach. If something could be harmful, why not avoid it until the results are in, instead of potentially exposing yourself to a carcinogen, right?