Over the years, reports in the media have sometimes claimed that use of talc increases the risk of ovarian cancer. We understand that these reports are concerning, and we have highlighted the overwhelming scientific information showing no causal link between cosmetic talc and cancer. We therefore welcome the recent study confirming that there is no link between the use of talc and ovarian cancer.
A US Government funded study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on a quarter of a million women and thought to be the largest of its kind on this topic, has found no link between talc and ovarian cancer. According to Prof Iain McNeish, Director of the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre at Imperial College London, it is a “very well-conducted study by a highly respected group of researchers.”
As with any scientific research, critical review is essential. Therefore, some limitations of the study include the fact that although no statistically significant association was found overall, it may not have been possible to see very small changes in risk. This is because although the study was conducted on 250,000 women, fortunately only a comparatively small number developed cancer.
This new analysis combined four previous studies on this topic, which looked at ‘powder’ use in the genital area, so it is not possible to know exactly which powder was used on every occasion. For example, both talc and cornstarch are commonly used powders for this purpose. Also, the new investigation had to try and remove any influence of various different lifestyle factors on the risk of developing ovarian cancer. The four studies had gathered detailed information on different lifestyle factors, and it cannot be guaranteed that all of them were removed in the new analysis.
A small statistically significant link was found between users of talc and ovarian cancer in a sub-set of women that was analysed. However, the authors have highlighted that further research needs to be carried out to determine whether this association is real or a statistical fluke, because the association is weak. An editorial accompanying the article stresses that this finding “should not be selectively highlighted … as evidence of a relationship.”
Prof Justin Stebbing, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Professor of Cancer Medicine and Medical Oncology, Imperial College London has commented that “it doesn’t look like talc is a carcinogen which is an important and reassuring finding.”
The findings of the JAMA study confirm previous evidence for cosmetic talc safety. For further details, please see Cosmetic Talc – In Depth.
Dr Emma Meredith, Director-General of CTPA and a qualified pharmacist says “it is good to have this new study to further confirm the safety of talc in cosmetic products. We can be confident that all cosmetic products are safe. They are governed by strict laws and every single cosmetic product must be approved by a safety expert before being sold”.
 *O’Brien KM, Tworoger SS, Harris HR, et al. Association of powder in the genital area with risk of ovarian cancer. JAMA. 2020;323(1):49-59. doi: 10.1001/jama.2019.20079.
 Gossett DR, del Carmen MG. Use of Powder in the Genital Area and Ovarian Cancer Risk: Examining the Evidence. JAMA. 2020;323(1):29–31. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2019.20674
 Fiume MM et al (2015)Safety Assessment of Talc as used in cosmetics. International Journal of Toxicology 34 (supp1) 66S-129S