Talc is “probably carcinogenic” to humans, WHO confirms

The talc has been officially classified as “probably carcinogenic” for humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer – IARCpart of the WHO, specialized in the study of oncological diseases.

This natural compound, a magnesium silicate found in igneous and metamorphic rocks, is widely used in industry, especially in cosmetics. It is found in plastics, ceramic paper, animal feed, and many beauty and personal care products, such as face powder, foundation, and body powder used for intimate hygiene or to prevent skin friction during sports.

The Link Between Talc and Cancer

Talc has been the subject of much research and, over the years, has been associated with several medical conditions, such as talcosis and ovarian cancer. After years of intense debate over the safety of the compound, the risk of which is partly attributed to the possible presence of small concentrations of quartz and asbestos in the dust resulting from processing, IARC has decided to classify talc in the Group 2Awhich includes substances that are probably carcinogenic to humans.

This group also includes red meat, steroidscompounds released by frying at high temperatures, acrolein, bitumen, cisplatin, DDTglyphosate, very hot drinks (over 65°C), some hair care products, and many other substances. Group 2A is just below Group 1, which includes substances that are known to cause cancer in humans, such as cigarette smoke, processed meats, welding fumes, and others.

Several studies have highlighted an association between the use of talcum powder for intimate hygiene and ovarian cancerwith a U.S. pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant being sued for multi-million dollar claims. A 2013 study by scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that women who regularly use talcum powder on their private parts have a 24 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer.

How dangerous can it be?

The classification, however, does not imply that talc always causes cancer. The chances of developing the disease depend on several factors, such as the amount and duration of exposure, the presence of other chemicals, and the characteristics of the individual organism. In addition, the category does not determine the degree or potential risk. “This does not mean that a person who has used talcum powder once or who uses it with some regularity is clearly at risk,” emphasizes Alejandro Cáncer, a researcher at the Incliva Biomedical Research Institute, in a statement reported by Science Media Center.

The WHO agency warns that exposure to talc occurs mainly in the professional field, during extraction and processing. mineral processing. The general population comes into contact with the substance through the use of cosmetics, deodorants, make-up and body products. However, IARC does not exclude that the compound is present in foods, drugs and other consumer products.

This is not the first time that a connection between talc and cancer has been attested: the Johnson & Johnsonwhich recently closed a $700 million settlement to settle lawsuits over talc containing asbestos, a carcinogen primarily associated with ovarian cancer, plus another $6.5 billion settlement to settle cancer lawsuits allegedly linked to talc.