SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Deane Berg, a physician assistant from Sioux Falls, South Dakota was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer allegedly developed through her use of talcum powder when she was 49, according to a piece written in The New York Times.
Being diagnosed with such a serious form of cancer at a relatively young age led Berg to research what factors could have caused the cancer to develop. After extensive research, she realized that while she did not have common risk factors including infertility or endometriosis, she had been using talcum powder between her legs for over 30 years.
Berg, now 59, became the first women to file a lawsuit against powder manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson. claiming that their product served as a catalyst to the development of her ovarian cancer. Since filing, she has been joined by thousands of women who claim to share her experience, citing dozens of research trials dating back to 1971 claiming that talc particles present in ovarian tumors indicate a relationship between the powder and cancer development.
With claims of talcum powder causing ovarian cancer, numerous studies have been conducted in recent years attempting to determine if the lawsuits claims are true. Of these studies, one of the more recent ones claimed that genital use of powder among African-American women is linked with a 44% increase in risk of ovarian cancer.
However, Johnson & Johnson has refused to acknowledge any link between use of their baby powder and ovarian cancer. In refusing to acknowledge any link, the company will appeal the multimillion-dollar jury awards that were levied against it earlier this year. These damage awards include $55 million awarded to a cancer survivor and an additional $72 million to another plaintiff.
The prominence of claims has led The International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify cancer as a possible human carcinogen if used in the female genital area. However, skeptics point to the classification of pickled vegetables and coffee as carcinogens as reasons to be skeptical of these claims.
When asked by writer Roni Caryn Rabin to speak on the talcum powder question, Dr. Shelley Tworoger, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard, answered:
“There is no way we’re ever going to know for certain that any exposure is necessarily causal to a disease, we might be 99 percent sure, but there’s usually no way to guarantee that what you see is actually the truth.”
Dr. Tworoger went on to say that because of the long term developing nature of cancer and inability to isolate triggering factors, cancer is difficulty to study.
Because of the difficulty in isolating other factors as well as the ethical dilemma, there has never been a study to see what happens when women are deliberately exposed to talcum powder. Those involved must then rely on observational studies including a 1982 study led by Harvard Professor, Dr. Daniel W. Cramer. The study observed 215 women with ovarian cancer and 215 women without ovarian cancer. The study concluded that talcum users carried an ovarian cancer risk nearly two times greater than non-talcum users with the risk increasing to three times as much when it was used regularly.
When results from similar studies are brought together, a 24% increase in ovarian cancer risk if found. According to Dr. Steven A. Narod, this would mean nearly one of five talcum powder users with ovarian cancer suffer the condition due to talcum powder.
Opponents of these studies claim that the nature of the studies result in bias conclusions. When asked to expand on the claim that these studies lead to bias results, Dr. Larry Copeland, a gynecologic oncologist from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Canter and paid expert for Johnson & Johnson, went on to say that if a researcher asks a patient about their talcum use when looking for cancer risk factors, selective memory will lead to subjects immediately jumping to powder as the reason for their cancer.
To back up his claims, Dr. Copeland relies on results from a government-funded study in which 61,576 women were asked about their perineal powder use and over 12 years of tracking their health, found no correlation between powder use and cancer.
However, when confronted with this study by The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Steven A. Narod, an expert in genetics from Toronto, said that the study cited by Dr. Copeland was not large enough nor did it track subjects long enough to yield legitimate results.
While those who support the nation that talcum powder leads to ovarian cancer may not be able to show how it occurs, studies have shown that talc particles can migrate to the genitourinary tract into the peritoneal cavity. In response to being shown these claims, Dr. Tworoger went on to say that “talc particles can set off inflammation, and inflammation is believed to play an important role in the development of ovarian cancer.”
While an overwhelming amount of studies have shown a correlation, the Food and Drug Administration has yet to act on requests to add warning labels to the product. The FDA has denied the existence of any conclusive evidence establishing causality.
Yet, even as reports began to mount showing a possible correlation, Johnson & Johnson made plans to expand sales by targeting African-American and Hispanic consumers. This plan was confirmed when internal memos from 1992 were reviewed.
While Ms. Berg won her case against Johnson & Johnson, she was not awarded any damages. Since then however, Johnson & Johnson has been on the losing end of a $55 million and $72 million jury awarded damage order.
Our Talcum Powder Lawyers Can Help You
Our dangerous drug attorneys can help if you or someone you care about was harmed by talcum powder. Lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson and Valeant Pharmaceutical International, Inc. by both women and their families seeking compensation for injuries caused by this dangerous product.
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