This past Monday, a St. Louis jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to the family of a deceased woman who had been using the company’s talcum powder for decades.
The victim was Jacqueline Fox, who died at age 62 just before the trial began. According to CNN, Fox had been using Johnson’s Baby Powder and the Shower to Shower products for over 35 years. Her case is part of a much larger lawsuit made up of almost 50 women with similar claims.
Jacqueline’s family argued that the company was well aware of the health risks associated with talcum powder, but failed to warn consumers. In the end, Johnson & Johnson was found guilty of negligence, conspiracy, and fraud.
Ovarian cancer is a growth of abnormal malignant cells that begin in the ovaries. While it is not the most common form of cancer among women, there are predicted to be 22,80 new ovarian cancer cases and 14,420 deaths due to the disease in 2016 alone. There is currently no official screening test for ovarian cancer, and its symptoms can be associated with several other disorders, so it’s not often diagnosed until it’s well past the earliest stages. This means missing out on valuable time when treatment would be most effective.
While Fox’s defense team is adamant that the talcum powder contributed to her illness, there is still room for more research regarding talc’s potential risks. According to the American Cancer Society, it’s not entirely clear if the products containing talcum increase cancer risk.
Many case-control studies have found a small increase in risk. But these types of studies can be biased because they often rely on a person’s memory of talc use many years earlier. Two prospective cohort studies, which would not have the same type of potential bias, have not found an increased risk.
While there may not be enough information to confidently state the connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, this is not the first time Johnson & Johnson has been found guilty for these charges. In 2013, the company was found liable for a lawsuit in South Dakota where a plaintiff voiced similar complaints against J&J’s products.
Health experts are continuing to investigate the link between talc and ovarian cancer.