Keeping fresh with talcum powder can raise cancer risk - research

Be careful if you're using talcum powder.Photo / Thinkstock
Be careful if you're using talcum powder.Photo / Thinkstock

Women who regularly use talcum powder to keep fresh increase their risk of ovarian cancer by almost a quarter, according to new research.

Scientists warned powder particles applied to the genital area can travel into a woman's body and trigger inflammation, which allows cancer cells to flourish.

Around 40 per cent of women are thought to regularly use talcum powder for personal hygiene.

Several previous studies have investigated the link between the powder and tumours.

Some have detected links with ovarian and womb cancer but others have proved inconclusive.

In the latest probe, doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, pooled data from eight separate studies to try and come up with a definitive answer.

This kind of research, known as a meta-analysis, is designed to produce stronger findings than smaller, individual studies.

The researchers analysed data from 8,525 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and compared talcum powder use with that of 9,800 women who remained cancer-free.

The results, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, showed regularly applying the powder particles after bathing or showering raised the risk of an ovarian tumour by 24 per cent.

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among New Zealand women.

It's sometimes known as a 'silent killer' because for many victims symptoms only appear once it is already fairly advanced.

The main risk factors include a family history of the disease, having already had breast cancer and starting periods at a young age.

Researchers stressed the results only apply to talcum powder used in the genital area and not the rest of the body.

Some studies suggest the risks are greatest in the estimated one in ten Caucasian women with a certain genetic profile.

Women carrying a gene called glutathione S-transferase M1, or GSTM1, but lacking a gene called glutathione S-transferase T1 (GSTT1), are nearly three times as likely to develop ovarian tumours.

Talcum powder is made from a soft mineral called hydrous magnesium silicate that is found throughout the world.

It is crushed, dried and milled to produce powder used in cosmetic products by millions of people.

Some experts say it shares chemical similarities to asbestos, which can cause a deadly form of lung cancer called mesothelioma.

Tiny particles have been found to travel up through the genital tract and been found deep inside the pelvis.

They can also last inside the body for years. It is estimated that one particle of talc in the lungs, for example, would take eight years to dissolve.

- DAILY MAIL

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