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Study Links Baby Powder Use To Ovarian Cancer Risk

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Lots of women don't think twice about a poof of body powder to keep dry and fresh, but a concerning pattern has been noticed among women who do this that may have you changing your routine.

Seemingly harmless baby powder, in this case to keep sensitive areas dry, is linked to an increased cancer risk.

"Undoubtedly there are some talcum powders that are probably associated with some increased incidence of ovarian cancer," says Allegheny General Hospital gynecologic oncologist Dr. Jan Seski.

More than 20 previous studies point to a link.

In a paper presented at a conference, researchers looked at 2,000 women from New England comparing women with and without ovarian cancer. Turns out, there is an association between long-term talc use on the genitals and this disease.

The number of women with ovarian cancer is 30 percent higher in women who use talc compared to those who don't.

"It may be due to an asbestos phenomenon, where it's chronic irritation that occurs inside the abdominal cavity because of the talcum powder," explains Dr. Seski.

It's thought that talc gets into the body by being absorbed through the vagina and into the uterus and fallopian tubes and into the abdomen.

Talc particles have been found in the lymph nodes and other tissues of some women with ovarian cancer.

This study shows a link, but not causation. Even so, doctors urge caution.

"I would just generally advocate women to avoid that practice since we don't know what the final answer is," advises Dr. Seski.

As for using it on babies:

"Based on what these studies show, and based on what we recommend to our adolescent and mature women not to use talcum powder, you know what, I can't fault a woman if she didn't want to use talcum powder on her female infant," he says.

Not all powders contain talc. Some contain cornstarch as a main ingredient. Whether that might serve as an irritant to the ovaries isn't known. In general, pediatricians say no powdering, because it can be a skin irritant, and in some cases, lead to infection. Gynecologists say, no powdering your privates, either.

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