Petition Seeking a Cancer Warning on Cosmetic Talc Powder Products

May 19, 2008, 01:00 ET from Cancer Prevention Coalition

    CHICAGO, May 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On May 13, 2008, the Cancer
 Prevention Coalition, endorsed by leading national authorities, submitted
 this Petition to the FDA. This updates scientific information detailed in a
 November 17, 1994, Citizen Petition which was denied by the FDA. It also
 documents prior knowledge of the FDA and industry on the cancer risks of
 cosmetic talc.
     The scientific basis of the 2008 Petition is detailed in 11 reports in
 leading national and international scientific journals. These document the
 increased risks of ovarian cancer, ranging from 30% to 60%, from genital
 dusting with talc powder. In view of the strength of this evidence, a 1999
 publication by a leading national expert urged that "formal public health
 warnings" should be made against the genital use of talcum dusting powder.
 Of further relevance is well-documented scientific evidence that ligation
 of the fallopian tubes or hysterectomy is protective against the dangers of
 talc by preventing its access to the ovaries.
     It should further be emphasized that cornstarch, an organic
 carbohydrate, powder is a safe and effective alternative to talcum powder
     As the Petition states, FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach,
 former Director of the National Cancer Institute, is or should be aware,
 that the mortality of ovarian cancer for women over the age of 65, has
 escalated dramatically since 1975, by 13% for white and 47% for black
 women. There are now about 15,300 deaths from ovarian cancer each year.
 This makes it the fourth commonest fatal cancer in women after colon,
 breast and lung. Yet Dr. von Eschenbach has failed to mandate a cancer
 warning label on talc powder, let alone ban its continued use.
     Information on the cancer risks of talc dusting powder is not new to
 the FDA, nor to the industry.
     As stated in the Petition, J. Mande, Acting Associate Commissioner for
 Legislative Affairs of the Department of Health and Human Services,
 admitted in August 1993 that "We are aware that there have been reports in
 the medical literature between frequent direct female perineal talc dusting
 over a protracted period of years, and an incremental increase in the
 statistical odds of subsequent development of certain ovarian cancers . . .
 (However) at the present time, the FDA is not considering to ban, restrict
 or require a warning statement on the label of talc containing products."
     More reckless is the admission, in an August 12, 1992 New York Times
 article by Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer and retailer of talc dusting
 powder, that frequent genital dusting with talc increases risks of ovarian
 cancer by three-fold. This risk was belatedly admitted this year by the
 industry's Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association.
     Finally, Senator Edward Kennedy, in a 1997 statement to the Senate,
 requested the FDA to place a cancer warning on the label of talc products,
 besides other products containing known carcinogens. Nevertheless, over a
 decade later this warning remains ignored.
     Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
     Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
     Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
     University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
     Chicago, Illinois
     Past President, Rachel Carson Council, Inc.
     Endorsed by: Quentin Young, M.D., Chairman, Health and Medicine Policy
 Research Group, Chicago, Past President, American Public Health
 Association; Peter Orris, M.D., Professor and Chief of Service, University
 of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center; Rosalie Bertell, PhD, International
 Association for Humanitarian Medicine; and Ronnie Cummins, National
 Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

SOURCE Cancer Prevention Coalition