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Talcum powder caught up in cancer debate

AAP logoAAP 6/09/2016

TALCUM POWDER AND ITS SUPPOSED LINKS TO OVARIAN CANCER

WHAT IS IN TALCUM POWDER?

* It's main ingredient is talc, which is the world's softest mineral and found 3km below the Earth's surface

* Talc is made up of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen

* It is crushed, dried and milled for use in cosmetic powders to help keep skin dry

WHAT'S TALCUM POWDER USED IN?

* Face, body and baby powders, cosmetics, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, chewing gum, some medicinal tablets

WHY ARE SOME PEOPLE WORRIED?

* In its natural form some talc contains asbestos, which is known to cause cancer when inhaled

* However modern cosmetic talcum products are asbestos-free

* Research in 1961 found particles, similar to talc, can translocate from the exterior of the genital area to a woman's ovaries, sparking concerns that talc users could be at risk of ovarian cancer

WHAT HAVE SCIENTISTS FOUND?

* Studies carried out since the 1970s have had mixed findings on whether talcum powder causes ovarian cancer in women who use it on their genital areas

* An analysis of 16 studies carried out before 2003 found a 33 per cent increased risk

* The American Cancer Society says many of the studies that found a small increase in risk may have been biased as they relied on a person's memory of talc use

* In 2006 the International Association for the Research of Cancer classified perineal use of talcum powder as "possibly" cancer causing

WHAT SHOULD WOMEN DO?

* Cancer Council NSW says further research is needed to determine whether and how talcum powder might increase the risk of ovarian cancer

* Ovarian Cancer Australia recommends women stop using talcum powder on their genital area if possible.

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