Talcum powder has been used in cosmetics, such as baby powder, for more than a century. They can absorb moisture and keep your skin dry and cool. But it has also been associated with cancer risks, although research is still not entirely certain.
The safety of talcum powder is in question in large part because talc contains trace amounts of asbestos, which is linked to cancer. But because men sometimes use it to absorb sweat and moisture in the groin area, concerns remain about a link between talcum powder and testicular cancer.
In recent years, we may even have seen lurid headlines sounding the alarm about a possible link between using talcum powder (the main ingredient in many baby powder products) in the vaginal area and cancer. So there are many people about the risks.
What is talcum powder?
Talc is a natural mineral that is mined underground. Found in clay, it is the softest mineral on earth. It is commonly used in cosmetics, where it absorbs moisture and odors, prevents caking, and gives products a silky texture. It is also used as a filler for plastics, paper, and construction materials. However, the main ingredient in talcum powder is talc, a mineral that contains asbestos. It also contains magnesium, oxygen and silicon.
Some women use talcum powder for feminine hygiene, sprinkling it on their genitals, underwear, pads, or tampons. The goal is to absorb sweat and moisture, reduce odors, and prevent irritation and friction.
The link between talc and asbestos
Asbestos is a group of mineral fibers that are resistant to heat and corrosion. Thanks to these properties, in the past they were often used as building materials, from pipe insulation to floor tiles. Today, asbestos is recognized as a health hazard and carcinogen. Breathing it can cause lung disease and cancer.
Since the 1970s, people have expressed concern that talc could potentially be contaminated with asbestos. Let ‘s remember that talc is extracted from a rock that commonly contains asbestos . Therefore, asbestos strands may be present in raw talc.
Testing found that 14% of talc-based cosmetics contained asbestos, while FDA testing revealed that 21% of talc-based cosmetics also contained trace amounts of asbestos.
However, in October 2021, the FDA released the results of a one-year sampling assignment that tested random cosmetics containing talc for asbestos content. The researchers did not detect asbestos in any of the 50 samples tested. Something that differs a lot from the tests that were done in 2029, where asbestos was found in 9 of 51 blind cosmetic samples.
Can it cause cancer?
Clear links have been found between asbestos exposure and ovarian cancer. However, the most recent and comprehensive data do not support a connection between sprinkling talcum powder into the vagina and ovarian cancer.
One of the hypotheses for how ovarian cancer is contracted is that the toxins travel up the cervix, through the fallopian tube, and into the ovaries. This theory stems from the fact that if you have your tubes tied (a hysterectomy), severing the connection between the outside world and your ovaries, you are less likely to get ovarian cancer . But the cervix is very good at preventing material from passing through the vagina and protecting the inside. It’s like a nightclub bouncer: the cervix seals off the rest of the reproductive system, allowing only semen to enter and menstrual blood to leave.
That said, there is still a chance that small amounts of dust could travel to the ovaries. If we sprinkle the genital area with talcum powder and then put in a tampon, it is very possible that we introduce remains into the vagina.
Still, even if a little dust did make it to your ovaries, there is no scientific evidence to date that shows it causes cancer. One in four cases of ovarian cancer is caused by an inherited predisposition. The other causes are not well understood.
On the other hand, the researchers did not find a significant association between the use of talcum powder in the genital area and the development of endometrial cancer . Even with long-term use, the increased risk was not found to be statistically significant.
Research on lung cancer and talcum powder focuses primarily on the increased risk of cancer from inhalation of talcum powder. Although most people do not inhale large amounts of talc, workers who mine talc may be at increased risk of talc inhalation.
Tips for using it safely
There’s no proven link to cancer, so they probably don’t pose many health risks. But as a general guideline, if you have bothersome symptoms or health concerns, it’s best to ask a specialist doctor.
Some recommendations for using talcum powder safely are:
- Underwear first, then the powder. Using talcum powder to remove perspiration or prevent chafing and rashes related to moisture should be done right. If we want to be super safe, we will put the underwear on first to create a barrier. Since moisture usually appears in the creases of the legs and the crease of the tummy, underwear would greatly lessen any potential transit that might be occurring.
- Sprinkle lightly . Use the minimum amount of powder necessary. Do not abuse. If we have so much humidity that we need to apply it several times a day, we will consult a dermatologist or gynecologist. They may suggest a prescription powder.
- Switch to cornstarch . Some companies are phasing out talcum powder for a cornstarch-based one, so you might consider changing the product you use.
- Talk to your doctor . If we resort to this product to deal with odors or secretions, it is recommended to speak with an obstetrician-gynecologist or primary care physician. You don’t have to self-medicate.
Alternatives to talcum powder
If we are looking for alternative treatments for excessive testicular sweating, there are several safe options that do not include talcum powder. Some examples are:
- Cornstarch. The main ingredient in several organic baby powders, cornstarch absorbs moisture in a similar way to talcum powder.
- Baby powder . This should be mixed with cornstarch or other safe ingredients so that it does not irritate the skin.
- Tapioca starch . This alternative comes from the South American yucca plant.
- kaolin clay . An absorbent substance, kaolin clay is an ingredient in a variety of soaps, powders, and other cosmetic products.
- oatmeal . This somewhat crude product is made from ground oats.
If we have a condition like hyperhidrosis (causing excessive sweating), we may need medication or a procedure to interfere with the sweat glands. Testicular sweating can also be reduced by wearing loose fitting underwear made of breathable fabrics. Caffeine and alcohol can also increase perspiration.