Hyderabad: Compensation of $3.6 billion in damages to 22 women in the United States who claimed that Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder and other talcum powders caused ovarian cancer, has raised doubts about the safety of the products.
Talcum powder is used widely in India too. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has stated that as these are homecare and personal hygiene products and they do not come under its purview.
Joint director of the drug control office in Telangana State, T. Kaila-sam explained, “These products do not come under our jurisdiction. There are no complaints or cases registered in India.”
In 2013, 16 studies from various centres in the United States showed that the use of talcum powder in the genital area could increase the risk of ovarian cancer but more evidence was required. The risk factor was just two per cent.
Dr Sanjeeva Kumari, senior radiation oncologist at MNJ Cancer Hospital, says there is no scientific evidence that talcum powder causes cancer. “The reasons for ovarian cancer are hormonal imbalances, hormonal therapies, a genetic history of breast cancers in the family, colon cancer...these are some of the reasons where the risk increases.”
But health experts are sounding a caution in using talcum powder in the genital area.
According to the American Cancer Society, 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed in 2018. Of this, 14,070 reported to have died. The survival rate is 47.5 per cent after the diagnosis, which is mostly in stage 3.
Dr Mohana Vamsy, chief surgical oncologist who is also the managing director of Omega Cancer Hospitals, said the usage of talcum powder is not advisable in genital areas as it is suspected to be one of the causes for ovarian cancer.
However, Dr Vamsy said that there is no direct evidence to say that talc can cause cancer.
“While human papillomavirus is the direct cause for cervical cancer, the same cannot be linked between talc and ovarian cancer. Yet gynnaecologists advice that no mineral combination powders or talcum powder must not be used for longer time in genital areas,” Dr Vamsy said....