Women have been warned to immediately stop using talcum powder around their genitals in the wake of research which suggests particles may travel to the ovaries and trigger a process of inflammation that allows cancer cells to flourish.
Although previous studies have raised concerns over talc, the latest findings from the United States suggest women who use it are 40 percent more likely to get ovarian cancer - a much greater risk than first thought - the Telegraph newspaper reported.
The findings, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, apply only to talcum powder used around the private parts, not on the rest of the body
Experts from Harvard Medical School in Boston studied more than 3000 women and found using talc merely once a week raised the risk of ovarian cancer by 36 percent, rising to 41 percent for those applying powder every day.
Dr Maggie Gates, who led the study, said that until the outcome of further research women should avoid using talc in the genital area.
One alternative is cornstarch powder.
The study revealed that the risks were greater still for those with a certain genetic profile.
Women carrying a gene called glutathione S-transferase M1, or GSTM1, but lacking a gene called glutathione S-transferase T1 (GSTT1), were nearly three times as likely to develop tumours. Around one in 10 Caucasian women are thought to have this genetic profile, putting them at sharply increased risk.
Ovarian cancer is often termed the silent cancer, as it grows quietly and is often only detected at the final stages, and it is the fourth biggest killer of all cancers for New Zealand women. About 312 new cases are diagnosed annually with 173 deaths
Until now, it has been thought the main risk factors included a family history of the disease, having already had breast cancer and starting periods at a young age.
Women who are overweight or use hormone replacement therapy are also thought to be more at risk.
Talc is made from a soft mineral called hydrous magnesium silicate, which is found throughout the world. It is crushed, dried and milled to produce powder used in cosmetic products by millions. Some experts say it has chemical similarities to asbestos, which can cause a deadly form of lung cancer.
Laboratory tests show ovarian cells exposed to talc divide more rapidly - a characteristic sign of cancer.
Until recently there was no proof that powder could travel through a woman's reproductive tract as far as the pelvis and then on to the ovaries.
But last year, a separate group of doctors at Harvard Medical School identified tiny particles of powder in the pelvis of a 68-year-old woman with advanced ovarian cancer who had used talc every day for 30 years.
source: newshub archive