FDA renews investigation into talc – cancer link

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

FDA renews investigation into talc – cancer link
Late last year the organization’s Office of Women’s Health granted funding for a new study into the relationship between talc and ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson has been at the center of this concern. The company’s popular baby powder is commonly used as a hygiene product by women. And it was just about this time last year that J&J was found liable​ for fraud, negligence, and conspiracy in a Missouri case brought by Jacqueline Fox and her family.

Jackson developed and subsequently died from ovarian cancer. She also used J&J talc products as part of her daily personal care routine.

Wavering support

J&J went live with a blog post touting The Facts About Talc Safety almost immediately following that verdict.  And the company’s paid ad placement for its Facts About Talc web site still today returns as the top Google search item for most searches including both the words ‘talc’ and ‘cancer’ –a signal that a talc-cancer link is still an issue of consequence for the company and the industry.

Talc is of course used in an array of personal care and cosmetic products. And ingredient suppliers have told Cosmetics Design that demand for talc fell off noticeably after the J&J verdict and that alternatives like kaolin and starch were instead attracting attention.

Current study

As the Food and Drug Administration site explains, “The FDA Office of Women’s Health (OWH) awards research grants for 1-2 year studies to support FDA regulatory decision-making and advance the science of women’s health.”

And as part of the grant making program, a new study is underway to explore the link between talc and ovarian cancer in women. The study, titled ‘Non-clinical mechanistic studies in addressing ovarian cancer risk from talc use in cosmetics’ is led by Nakissa Sadrieh, PhD.

Past FDA research into this concern “suggests the need for studies with longer exposure periods and more detailed evaluation of the early events in genital system tissue transformation,”​ Sadrieh notes in her research proposal. 

Her new study aims “to fill some of the existing data gaps, in the molecular and genetic events associated with early ovarian oncogenesis, as these are largely unknown.”

Sadrieh explains that “the association of such oncogenesis, with respect to exposure to a cosmetic ingredient used by women (talc), is of particular interest to women's health, and our studies could prove to be useful as possible experimental models for further mechanistic studies in ovarian carcinogenesis.”

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