An age-old question, starting from the years '70 were published scientific articles on the possible association between the use of talcum powder and the development of ovarian cancer, and several studies have reported an increased risk, although relatively small. It's more a case of studies case-control, in which the two populations – with and without a tumor of the ovary in this case – are compared on the use of the talc. The results have revealed a possible association (sometimes statistically significant) between the talcum powder used in the genital area and ovarian cancer. However, these surveys have limitations, as highlighted by the editorial in Jama accompanying the new study. Among these, the fact that they are based on memories and that people already affected by cancer could tell you have used the product more than what really happened. In most cases, however, do not note a correlation between use of talc and the increased risk. In 2018, an extensive review of 31 studies, including three cohort (i.e. large populations), had not provided yet a clear conclusion.
In the meantime, in 2016, was made known the news of the compensation from Johnson & Johnson's family of a woman who died of cancer of the ovary, which he had used for years, the talcum powder. The reasons for the condemnation were lack of indication on the packaging of the product, to be labeled “potentially carcinogenic”. Since then, lawsuits against the company have been different and in 2018 the company was sentenced to a maxi-compensation is intended to 22 women with ovarian cancer, this time for the presence of asbestos in the product. The talc can contain traces of asbestos, even if when it is worked the material as a carcinogen is eliminated, and since the years '70-in-law talc in sales may not fit. As reported by the Italian Association for cancer research (Airc), "on the basis of the poor quality of the evidence obtained in studies with humans that have linked ovarian cancer to the use of talc, IARC only considers the use of talc at the level of the perineal (ie, genital or intravaginal) as 'possible carcinogenic to humans'". Easy to understand, then, why bow the research to highlight or exclude the presence of an increased risk.
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The new study To unravel the doubts, Katie M. O'brien and the other researchers of the Epidemiology Branch at the
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, have now conducted a new analysis of the data of 4 cohorts in the us, based on the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII), the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS) and the Sister Study (SIS), for a total of more than 250 thousand women: the largest sample ever collected so far for this kind of investigation. On average, nearly 4 participants out of 10 reported having used talcum powder in a continuous way in the genital area for more than 20 years, or frequently (more than once a week). During a median follow-up of 11 years, about 2 thousand women have developed an ovarian tumor. In particular, among those who had made ample use of talc, the disease has recorded an average of 61 cases per 100 thousand per year, while among those who had not used the incidence was 55 on 100 thousand.
No “statistically significant association” In the face of these percentages are very similar between them, the researchers conclude that “there is observed a statistically significant association”, as they write The researchers in the conclusions between the use of talcum powder and the onset of cancer. In other words, the small increase detected (61 out of 100 thousand, as against 55 out of 100 thousand) is below the threshold for which it is possible to establish any link. “Anyway, as is reported by the authors, the study may be underpowered to identify a small increase in the risk”, the reason for which will be still a need for further research.
Despite the large numbers analyzed, in fact, the cases of ovarian cancer are relatively few, so it is difficult to detect a possible slight increase in incidence. Future studies should focus only on the women who have retained the reproductive function during the use of talc: a difficult undertaking because to collect these data could serve many years, and because the habit of using the talc continues to decrease.
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