Talc is a naturally occurring mineral that consists of hydrated magnesium silicate and is used widely in a staple product of female hygiene: talcum powder. Other personal hygiene and cosmetic products also use talc in their composition. In addition talc may be used in antacids, pesticides and so on.
The charge against talc is that it has certain minute fibers that are similar to asbestos. It is contended that when used for personal hygiene products, particularly in the form of talcum powder directly on the skin, it can be responsible for various health problems. Some detractors of talc claim that talc is seen to have carcinogenic properties and that it could lead to Ovarian Cancer and Lung Cancer.
Talc and Ovarian Cancer
Studies have shown that there is a connection between an increased risk of ovarian cancer and women who use talc especially in the genital area.
It is thought that applying talc powder to the genital area may cause the talc to move on up through the reproductive tract and then become embedded in the lining of the ovaries. Talc particles are also found to have been detected in the tumors in ovaries.
However the review of studies on the subject, have found that the connection between ovarian cancer and talc use is inconsistent and is not an established one.
It is also thought that since women want to be able to find a reason for having any kind of cancer, they may be more willing to implicate talc use – so women with cancer may recall talc use more clearly than women without the disease. This is one of the explanations for the seeming link between talc and cancer.
In fact the charge of talc causing ovarian cancer is refuted by studies that find that even the use of contraceptive diaphragms or condoms dusted with talc doesn’t increase ovarian cancer risk.
Talc and Lung Cancer
There is also the charge that talc, like asbestos, can cause lung cancer. However this is also a charge that doesn’t seem to be supported by studies on the subject. In fact in one treatment for treating symptoms of lung cancer, sterile talc is applied to the lining of the lungs directly. This helps to relieve symptoms such as breathlessness rather than actually causing the cancer.
It could however be that in the past, when talcum powders contained some traces of asbestos (before the use of asbestos was banned) it could have been responsible for certain cases of cancer.