Talcum Powder Cancer

Talcum Powder Cancer

Talcum Powder Cancer

Cosmetic products like baby powders and face powders commonly contain talcum powder. It is a popular and effective ingredient for such products because it keeps the skin dry and protects it. Although it has a long history with cosmetics, it has also come to the public’s attention that it has the potential to cause cancer.

Studies have shown mixed results regarding the link between specific types of cancer and talc, such as ovarian and lung cancer. This article aims to discuss talcum powder, how it can cause cancer, how to lessen your risks to exposure, and what alternatives can be used in place of talcum powder.

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What Is Talcum Powder Cancer?

Talcum powder causing cancer has been the focus of many studies since the 1960s, which is when people discovered that many talc deposits are close to asbestos ore. Ongoing studies and analysis of existing data are being made to clarify what diseases talcum powder can cause.

How Does Talcum Powder Cause Cancer?

Talc, when in its natural form, contains asbestos. Asbestos is a silicate mineral used in insulation and makes materials fire-resistant with its heat-resistant and flexible fibers. Exposure to asbestos is highly toxic when inhaled or ingested, as the fibers get trapped inside the body. These trapped fibers cause scarring and inflammation from within. Being subjected to asbestos causes mesothelioma, lung diseases, and even cancer.

Is Talcum Powder Bad for You?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorized certain talc with asbestos as carcinogenic. However, because of the lack of further research and evidence on the matter, talc that’s free of asbestos is considered safe.

Talc Powder and Ovarian Cancer

There have been many studies that established the link between baby powders containing talc and ovarian cancer. The first of which, and also one of the most well-known, is that of Daniel Cramer, titled “The Association Between Talc Use and Ovarian Cancer.” Cramer concluded that there’s a connection between the subtypes of ovarian cancer and talcum powder usage.

The potential of talc to cause cancer has been highlighted since many lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, one of the leading talcum powder producers, have come to light over the years. Many women have been awarded reparations when their talcum powder use was linked with their ovarian cancer.

Talc Powder and Other Cancer

Talcum powder and cancer are strongly linked. However, talc powder hasn’t been extensively studied and proven to be connected with other cancers, aside from ovarian and lung cancer, and further research is required to study them.

Lung Cancer

Studies about lung cancer and talcum powder mainly focus on the inhalation of talc, which increases the risk of cancer. Most people who work in talc mines are more at risk of inhaling them compared to people who don’t inhale large amounts of talc in their everyday lives.

Recently, a meta-analysis of 14 observational studies discovered similar links between inhaling talc and lung cancer. The study found that the increased risk of lung cancer can also be related to asbestos-free talc, so the risk is theorized to be consistent whether the inhaled talc has asbestos or not.

Aside from lung cancer, some other types of cancers haven’t been proven to be explicitly linked with someone’s exposure to talc, so it can’t be concluded that talc can increase risks for all types of cancer.

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A Closer Look: What Is Talcum Powder?

Talcum powder is a powder made from talc, often used in manufacturing baby powders. Talc is a clay mineral and is the softest mineral, made of hydrated magnesium silicate. It is then finely ground to create a smooth and silky powder. This powdered form of talc is mixed with cornstarch to make baby powder. It’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for ingestion and topical drug products.

Common Uses of Talcum Powder

Talc is also used in other cosmetics such as blush, mascara, and eyeshadows. It can be labeled as talc, talcum powder, or magnesium silicate. Talcum powder is used in many products because of its ability to:

  • Soak up moisture and oil
  • Absorb odor
  • Be a lubricant
  • Prevent clogged pores (It has an astringent effect)
  • Cut down friction and chafing
  • Prevents skin rashes

Talc in the United States

This clay mineral is commonly found in metamorphic rocks in convergent plate boundaries. The Talc deposits in the United States are often found in the following areas:

  • California
  • Appalachian Mountains
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Washington
  • Texas
  • New Mexico

What Is the Difference Between Talc and Baby Powder?

There is little difference between talc and baby powder. In the past, they could only be differentiated by the scents added to them and the way their makers marketed them.

Baby powder was explicitly made for babies. It was manufactured to prevent diaper rashes as they keep the baby’s skin dry. The main ingredient used in baby powders is either talc or cornstarch, depending on the manufacturer. Some manufacturers still use talc, while others have already shifted to preferring cornstarch because of the issues surrounding talc.

Is Talc Safe?

Talc is safe when it’s used as directed and is generally recognized as safe by the FDA. But compared to cornstarch, talc has finer particles that are easier to inhale. Inhaling talcum powder causes sinus inflammation and irritation, and it can even lead to chronic lung diseases.

Is Talcum Powder Safe for Children?

The discussions about talcum powder cancer risks and why doesn’t it affect children are two contradicting concepts. To clear things up, talcum powder can affect and can be harmful to children. Pediatricians from the American Association of Pediatrics greatly recommend parents avoid using any baby powder with talc as one of the ingredients on their children, especially babies. This is because children and babies can easily inhale the talc particles in the air and cause health problems.

Should You Avoid Talcum Powder?

If you’re concerned with the risks of cancer, it is best to reduce your exposure to talcum powder. However, if you want to continue using products that contain talc, make sure to do your research about the manufacturers of the products you’re using and be sure if they perform asbestos testing.

Also, if you mine talc for a living, you should lessen your exposure by using talc-free products and use alternatives instead.

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How Can You Reduce Exposure to Talcum Powder?

It’s still not scientifically proven and has little to no evidence that all other cosmetic products that have talcum powder can increase the risks of cancer. This is because current studies still show mixed results. But it is safe to be on talcum powder alert. The best way is to avoid any talc exposure, and it is recommended and advisable to keep away from or limit the usage of any product that contains talcum powder.

Talcum Powder Alternatives

The previous sections have discussed and tried to answer the question: “Why is talcum powder bad?” But it isn’t just bad. This mineral wouldn’t find its way into our everyday lives without it giving us many advantages as well. But if you’re looking for alternatives to use instead of talcum powder, here are some:


Cornstarch is the most used alternative for talcum powder. Cornstarch, as the main ingredient in organic baby powders, functions the same way talcum powder would. It can efficiently absorb moisture too. It is made from food ingredients and is safer as it has larger particles. It’s also easily accessible and available in grocery stores, bakeries, and other general merchandise. Still, inhaling cornstarch can pose a danger, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is not just for baking. Aside from having many purposes around the house, it is also safe to use as an alternative to baby powder. Baking soda can be blended with cornstarch to prevent abrasions for people with sensitive skin.

Kaolin Clay

Kaolin clay is an absorbent substance and is gentle for people with sensitive skin. It is one of the ingredients in various soaps, powders, and other cosmetic products.

Tapioca Starch

This starch comes from cassava plants, and it can absorb moisture and oil.

Rice Starch

It is mainly ground-up rice and has been used as face powders even before the discovery of talc.

Oat Flour

It’s like rice starch; only it is made from oats.

Talcum powder has always been used for many personal and cosmetic products, but still, there are many people who question if it does increase the risks of developing cancers. If you’re worried about risking yourself with cancer by being exposed to talc, avoid or limit your usage of products that have this clay mineral.

Contact All American Hospice for Support

If cancer is inevitable and you’ve found yourself or a loved one in a position where you need care and support, All American Hospice is here for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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