Study links talc use to ovarian cancer — a potential boon for thousands suing J&J

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New research published this week lends credence to the more than 50,000 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson that allege its talc-based baby powder caused ovarian cancer.

The analysis, released Wednesday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that applying talc powder to the genitals was associated with ovarian cancer — and that the association was greater for people who used the powder frequently or for long periods of time.

The researchers are from the National Institutes of Health, and their findings were based on data from the Sister Study, which enrolled more than 50,000 women in the U.S. from 2003 to 2009. The participants joined when they were between 35 and 74 years old, and each had a sister who’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, which might put them at increased risk for breast or ovarian cancer.

Lawsuits related to J&J’s talc-based baby powder date back to 1999, when a woman alleged that a lifetime of using it led to her mesothelioma, a rare cancer usually caused by exposure to asbestos — a known carcinogen. In 2009, another woman sued the company, alleging that its talc-based products caused her ovarian cancer. Since then, many thousands of others have filed claims over cases of ovarian cancer or mesothelioma that they say were caused by asbestos in J&J baby powder.