Everyone gets that whiff of nostalgia when smelling talcum powder. We invariably remember our mothers and grandmothers sprinkling fragrant talcs after a shower. Your baby’s toiletry kit is incomplete without a bottle of the customary baby powder either. Scientists are now linking this seemingly harmless product to ovarian cancer in women now!

Talc is a soft mineral mined from deposits all over the world which is crushed to make powder.It is used in many personal grooming products to help absorb moisture and in other paint and plastic products.

But does it really lead to ovarian cancer?

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Scientists don’t have a definite answer to this,though talcum powder is believed to increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Finding a cause for this exactly is very difficult and unethical as one can’t ask women to apply talcum powder on the genital area and wait to see if it causes cancer while comparing those women who didn’t use it.

But before forming any conclusions it is important to understand the difference between asbestos containing and asbestos free talc powder. Talc powder containing asbestos, if inhaled can lead to cancer, but not the talc which is asbestos free as the studies lack solid evidence.

Many international environmental agencies study substances to find out whether they are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) or not. One such, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies use of talcum based body powder on genital areas as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ based on limited studies.

Ovarian cancer is a fatal but rare form of cancer that affects millions of women and accounts for 4% of all female cancers. In India too, the incidence of ovarian cancer in reproductive and growing women is on the rise.

Factors increasing risk of ovarian cancer :

  • Age
  • Use of estrogen therapy post menopause
  • Obesity
  • Genetic mutations
  • Family history of ovarian/breast cancer
  • Not having children

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Ovarian cancer symptoms:

In the early stages, there are usually no symptoms, only general symptoms like loss of appetite and weight, feeling of a mass in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, bloating sensation etc. More progressive symptoms like pain in stomach, pelvis, lower side of abdomen,pain during intercourse,back pain are seen as the cancer steadily advances.

If you are experiencing such symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.

 

Author

Consultant Physician and Diabetologist, MBBS, PDDM, MHA, 5+ years experience

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