Cambridge professor says talc powder likely raises risk of ovarian cancer

Fox lawyer insists Johnson & Johnson knew of link as early as 1979
By @vitthernandez on
Johnson's Baby Powder
Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York October 15, 2015. Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Until Wednesday’s landmark decision by a Missouri jury, the proof that talc powder could cause ovarian cancer when used as feminine hygiene was not confirmed by any court or scientific study. On Thursday, a Cambridge oncology professor added to the professional voice who gave credence to the court ruling for Johnson & Johnson to pay damages to the family of Jacqueline Fox of Alabama.

Cambridge University professor of cancer epidemiology Paul Pharoah believes it is biologically plausible for talc to enter the fallopian tubes and inflame the ovaries, which could lead to cancer. But he also concedes that the risk is small, reports The Telegraph.

He believes a British court would not make the same decision as the Missouri jurors did because the strength of the association is too small. Pharoah explains, “It is important to remember the size of the possible risk – a 20 year old woman in the UK has a risk of getting ovarian cancer at some point in her life of 18 in a thousand; a 20 per cent increase in this risk would raise this to 22 in a thousand.”

The Fox lawsuit is one of 1,200 lawsuits Johnson & Johnson is facing in the US for alleged failure to inform buyers of the risks of developing ovarian cancer. The company spokeswoman Carol Goodrich says that decades of scientific evidence backs its claim that cosmetic talc is safe to use.

However, some shareholders were not convinced, resulting in prices of Johnson & Johnsons down by 37 cents at $103.71 (AUD$144.50) at the New York Stock Exchange in early afternoon trading on Wednesday.

Jere Beasley, the lawyer of the Fox family, insists that Johnson & Johnson knew of talc powder’s risk. He points out, “They knew as far back as 1979 the association between talc and ovarian cancer. They knew that 1,500 women were dying each year from ovarian cancer caused or indirectly contributed to by talc and continued to sell, made a conscious decision not to warn,” quotes The Guardian.

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