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Recently, a long-simmering issue – whether talc (the mineral found in baby powder) can cause ovarian cancer if used in a woman’s genital area – has reemerged in the spotlight. Even though the question was first raised back in the early 1980s, scientists have still not reached a consensus on this topic. Some researchers suggest that talc can find its way into a woman’s reproductive system and then reach the ovaries, where it can cause scarring and inflammation that can eventually lead to cancer. Other medical professionals, though, are less certain about the existence of biologic mechanisms in which talc could influence the development of ovarian cancer.

According to Shelley Tworoger, PhD, a cancer epidemiologist and senior member at Moffitt Cancer Center, researchers have detected the presence of talc deeply embedded within some ovarian tumors. Furthermore, the results of some studies have established a clear link between the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer. However, it’s important to note that other studies show little to no association between talc and malignant tumors. For this reason, Tworoger stops short of asserting that talc directly causes ovarian cancer.

However, despite a lack of conclusive scientific studies, Tworoger believes there is sufficient information available to guide women in choosing whether or not to use baby powder for hygienic purposes. Her recommendation is that women should err on the side of caution and – since talcum powder is not a necessity – simply avoid using it in their genital area.

If you have questions about ovarian cancer, the board-certified physicians at Moffitt are available for consultation with and without referrals. Whether you are evaluating your individual risk profile, experiencing symptoms, seeking a second opinion or exploring your treatment options, the multispecialty team in our gynecological clinic can provide individualized advice and guidance.

To request an appointment with an oncologist in the gynecological clinic at Moffitt Cancer Center, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.