Study Confirms Link Between Ovarian Cancer and Talcum Powder Use Around Genitals

Findings are certain to bolster tens of thousands of talcum powder lawsuits being pursued against Johnson & Johnson, for failing to warn women about the risk of ovarian cancer.

As Johnson & Johnson continues attempts to resolve more than 50,000 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits brought by women diagnosed with ovarian cancer after applying the talcum powder products around their genitals, the findings of a major new study appear to provide further evidence to support the claims.

In a report published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on May 15, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicate that genital talcum powder use was associated with a 17% increased risk of ovarian cancer, though no association was seen with uterine cancer or breast cancer.

The federal scientists note that previous studies have established potential links between genital use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but concerns over the quality of the prior data and analyses have prevented the determination of a causal connection.

Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson has been fighting talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits for nearly a decade, and has been hit with several massive damage awards, where juries found that the manufacturer knew or should have known about the risks associated with adult women applying the talc-based powder around the genitals for decades. However, rather than warning about the risk, Johnson & Johnson continued to promote Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower for use by adult women.

Rather than negotiating an out-of-court settlement, Johnson & Johnson has previously made several attempts to force the litigation through the U.S. bankruptcy system, by transferring all liability it faces for failing to warn about the link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder to a subsidiary, then having that company declare bankruptcy protections. Although the courts previously rejected two such filings, the company recently announced a new $6.5 billion talcum powder ovarian cancer bankruptcy settlement offer, which plaintiffs’ lawyers have roundly rejected.

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Talcum Powder Lawsuits

Talcum powder or talc powder may cause women to develop ovarian cancer.

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Genital Talc Use Linked to Ovarian Cancer

As attorneys continue attempts to prepare a group of federal cases for a series of early bellwether trials, the findings of this new study will likely provide further support for the plaintiffs’ claims.

In the findings, NIH researchers reviewed data on 50,884 women who participated in The Sister Study, which involved women who had a sister with breast cancer. The federal scientists looked at data on genital cancer use and douching from those women from 2003 to 2009, looking for associations between intimate care product use and breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.

According to the findings, 41-65% of the women in the study douched, while 35% to 56% used genital talc. The researchers determined that genital talc use was positively associated with ovarian cancer, increasing the overall risk by 17%. While a small association between douching and ovarian cancer was also noted, neither process was linked to an increased risk of breast cancer or uterine cancer.

“Although results show how differential recall would upwardly bias estimates, corrected results support a positive association between use of intimate care products, including genital talc, and ovarian cancer,” the researchers concluded.

The findings bolster prior research published in medical and scientific journals that has also highlighted an ovarian cancer risk with talcum powder.

In 2019, a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found talc in the tissue of nine out of 10 ovarian cancer patients who used Johnson & Johnson products. Another study, published that same year, warned that researchers found a 9% increased risk of ovarian cancer among women who used talcum powder, which they deemed to be statistically significant. However, Johnson & Johnson has continued to dispute the findings, maintaining that their talc-based products do not cause ovarian cancer.

May 2024 Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed throughout the federal court system, coordinated pretrial proceedings were established for the talcum powder litigation in 2016, centralizing the cases before U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson in the District of New Jersey.

During the lengthy delay caused by Johnson & Johnson’s prior bankruptcy maneuvers, Judge Wolfson retired and management of the talcum powder litigation was transferred to U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp.

This new study comes as plaintiffs’ lawyers and Johnson & Johnson are preparing a group of ovarian cancer lawsuits for potential jury trials. Earlier this year, Judge Shipp granted a request by Johnson & Johnson to rehold Daubert hearings over the admissibility of plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, even though the prior judge presiding over the litigation found that the testimony could be presented to juries.

Plaintiffs asked Judge Shipp to reconsider the Daubert ruling, but he issued a court order (PDF) rejecting their motion on April 30. On the same day, he issued an amended scheduling order (PDF) which slated the first bellwether trial to begin on December 30, 2024.

Subsequently, Johnson & Johnson sought to further delay the litigation, by seeking extensions of those deadlines. However, a text order was issued by Judge Shipp on May 20, rejecting the request.

“Defendants seek to extend the deadline for service of defense experts, and counsel for the respective parties do not agree as to any proposed adjustments of the schedule,” the text order reads. “The parties are reminded that, pursuant to the Court’s April 30, 2024 Scheduling Order, the Court will not entertain any requests to extend the briefing schedule for Daubert or dispositive motions. ”

While the results of these individual bellwether trials will not be directly binding on other claims, the average talcum powder lawsuit payouts awarded by juries are expected to greatly influence the potential settlement values that Johnson & Johnson could be required to pay to avoid the need for each individual case to go to trial in the coming years.


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