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Editorial
January 7, 2020

Use of Powder in the Genital Area and Ovarian Cancer Risk: Examining the Evidence

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, Harvard University Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2020;323(1):29-31. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.20674

Women have used powders for genital hygiene for decades to absorb odor and moisture. While rates of powder use in the genital area have declined over the last 50 years,1 it remains a routine practice for some women. Commonly used products typically include talc, cornstarch, or some combination of both. Women may apply powders directly to the perineum or onto sanitary napkins, tampons, diaphragms, or underwear. Investigations of an association between the use of talc-containing powders for genital hygiene and epithelial ovarian cancer risks have provided inconsistent results to date and resulted in ongoing controversy. Since 1971, peer-reviewed articles have documented the possible association between talc use and the development of ovarian cancer. However, a PubMed search covering the last 5 decades identified only 17 primary or secondary studies and 36 other articles that were reviews, commentaries, meta-analyses, or letters to the editor.1-4 In short, while some investigations have been reported, the majority of publications were opinion and discussion articles.

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