For the third time this month, pharmaceutical conglomerate Johnson & Johnson has been hit with a multimillion-dollar jury verdict over whether the talc in its baby powder causes ovarian cancer.
The Associated Press reports that a St. Louis jury awarded $70.1 million to Deborah Giannecchini of Modesto, Calif., who was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in 2012.
Giannecchini, now 63, said she had used Johnson’s Baby Powder for more than 40 years to keep her vaginal area dry.
Two other jury trials in St. Louis reached similar outcomes earlier this year, awarding the plaintiffs $72 million and $55 million.
Johnson & Johnson maintains the safety of its product and is appealing the Missouri loses. In J&J’s home state of New Jersey, a judge recently threw out two other cases, ruling that there wasn’t reliable evidence that talc causes ovarian cancer.
The company currently faces an estimated 2,000 lawsuits over culpability for ovarian cancer diagnoses.
The American Cancer Society says that ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths among women. While African-American women have a lower incidence rate of ovarian cancer than white women, their five-year survival rate is lower because the disease is often found too late.
The science remains divided on talc, the soft mineral ground into white powder and used to absorb moisture in many cosmetic products. The Associated Press reports that Johnson & Johnson has used talc in its products since 1894, the year it launched its iconic Baby Powder brand.
Science currently shows no definitive causal relationship between talc and cancer, and experts agree that doing a study on it would be unethical, “asking a group of women to use talcum powder on their genitals and wait to see if it causes cancer, while comparing them to a group who didn't use it,” notes AP.
AP reports that the biggest studies have found no link between talcum powder applied to the genitals and ovarian cancer. But about two dozen smaller studies over three decades have mostly found a connection—a 20 percent to 40 percent increased risk among talc users.
And though many experts say there is no definitive link, three St. Louis juries disagree.