Link Between Asbestos-Free Talcum Powder and Cancer Unclear

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Talcum products currently sold are free from asbestos, but questions about possible cancer risks remain.
Talcum products currently sold are free from asbestos, but questions about possible cancer risks remain.

(HealthDay News) -- Talcum powder, made from talc, which contains asbestos is considered carcinogenic to humans, while the carcinogenicity of talc without asbestos is unclear, according to the American Cancer Society.

Talcum powder is widely used in cosmetic products. Some talc contains asbestos, although all talcum products used in homes in the United States have been free from asbestos since the 1970s.

In laboratory studies, exposure of rats, mice, and hamsters to asbestos-free talc resulted in mixed findings, with tumor formation in some studies. Findings from studies in women that examined the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer were mixed, with some studies showing a slightly increased risk. A small increase in risk was seen in many case-control studies. No increased risk was seen in one prospective cohort study, while a modestly increased risk was seen in a second study. Increased risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases has been seen in some studies of talc miners and millers. Lung cancer risk was not increased with reports of cosmetic talcum powder use. One study suggested increased risk of endometrial cancer with genital talcum powder use.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc that contains asbestos as "carcinogenic to humans," while talc not containing asbestos is "not classifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans." Perineal use of talc-based body powder is classified as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

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