A Missouri jury ruled that Johnson & Johnson has to pay $110 million in damages to a Virginia woman who sued the company for not warning consumers about cancer risk on their talc products.

Lois Slemp used Johnson & Johnson’s baby talc products for decades, which apparently caused her to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Other lawsuits are pending, totaling $197 million against the company and a separate talc supplier. Johnson & Johnson officials say that they will appeal the decision because experts do not seem to agree whether links with ovarian cancer are proven as of date.

Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder
The studies cited by the firm handling the legal cases claim that women who use talc on their genital area have a 40 percent higher risk of suffering from ovarian cancer. Image credit: Tech Times.

A decisive ruling over uncertain claims

According to Lois Slemp, she had cancer due to her continuous use of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder. Her lawyer claims that companies “ignored scientific evidence and deny their responsibilities.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer labels the product only as “possibly carcinogenic,” concerning the use of talcum powder on the genitals.

The reason why there is a debate is that of the asbestos present in mineral talc, and because asbestos is a confirmed carcinogen. The issue is that asbestos has been mostly left out of consumer talcum powder and other cosmetics for decades, although studies do not seem to agree whether this has made a difference.

Few studies highlight a risk of cancer, but these depend on the participant’s personal reminiscence of how much talcum powder they used throughout all of their life. Other studies claim that there is no risk whatsoever, while ovarian cancer societies assure that even a slight increase in the risk of suffering from ovarian cancer is critical because of it being such a rare disease.

Despite the lawsuit, ovarian cancer is recognized as an elusive disease, as there is no screening program for detecting it early. Only 2 in every 100 women are at risk of developing the disease at some point.

Ovarian cancer: Treatment and prevention

Women at high risk of developing the disease are recommended to either undergo scheduled checkups or remove their ovaries and fallopian tubes. Unfortunately, having the ovaries and tubes removed is a catalyst for the menopause.

Woman sleeping in bed
Early symptoms of ovarian cancer include feeling bloated, having a swollen stomach, and having to urinate more often than normal. Image credit: 1966 Magazine.

Although screenings can be helpful, doctors recommend undergoing surgery to reduce the risk to nearly zero. They agree that early menopause can be a concern for most women, but they also say that it is not very likely that regular checkups are saving lives.

After turning 35, women should analyze the risks and benefits of regular checkups versus surgery to have their reproductive organs removed. In essence, what matters is that the patient is aware of the risk, as ovarian cancer is an elusive disease, which is often diagnosed only after it has displayed symptoms.

Source: Reuters