WHO declares talc ‘probably carcinogenic’

According to AFP on the 6th, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified talc as a “possibly carcinogenic” substance to humans in an evaluation study published in The Lancet Oncology.

The report said that IARC based this conclusion on “limited evidence” that talc may cause human ovarian cancer, “sufficient evidence” that talc is associated with cancer in rats, and “strong mechanistic evidence” that talc shows signs of carcinogenicity in human cells. Some experts warned not to misunderstand this result as “conclusive evidence” because the relevant studies are observational and cannot prove the causal relationship.

Talc is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined in many parts of the world and is often used to make baby powder. The IARC report shows that most people are exposed to talc through baby powder or cosmetics, but the most serious such exposure occurs during mineral mining, processing or product manufacturing. Johnson & Johnson in the United States is facing multiple lawsuits for its talc products that may cause cancer.

According to Reuters, earlier this month, the U.S. District Court in New Jersey dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary against a scientist in a case involving “talc carcinogenicity research.” The scientist’s research published in 2020 showed that human contact with asbestos-contaminated talc products can cause tumors, while Johnson & Johnson insisted that its talc products were safe and did not cause cancer.