WHO classifies talc as ‘probably carcinogenic’ for humans

Most human are exposed to talc, which is a naturally occurring mineral mined in many parts of the world, in baby powder, skincare and cosmetics.

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The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency, categorized talc as “probably carcinogenic” for humans after the mineral was linked to cancer in rats. The decision was also based on “strong mechanistic evidence” that shows carcinogenic signs in human cells leading to ovarian cancer in humans, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said.

Most human are exposed to talc, which is a naturally occurring mineral mined in many parts of the world, in baby powder, skincare and cosmetics, according to the Lyon-based IARC.

A group of 29 scientists from 13 countries met in Lyon, France, and published their findings in The Lancet Oncology last week.

According to the agency, “there were numerous studies which consistently showed an increase in the rate of ovarian cancer in women who use talc on their genitals,” but the agency confirmed that some studies of talc were found to be contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos because of close proximity during formulation.

“A causal role for talc could not be fully established,” according the agency’s findings published in The Lancet Oncology.

According to a press release, the classification is the “second highest level of certainty that a substance can cause cancer.” But the classification comes with uncertainty from some experts. Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University in the UK, said “that when IARC classifies a substance in this series of publications, it does not say anything specifically about whether exposure to the substance does increase the risk of cancer, in humans,” Yahoo! News reported.

“Instead they aim to answer the question of whether the substance has the potential to cause cancer, under some conditions that IARC do not specify,” he said. “There isn’t a smoking gun that the talc use causes any increased cancer risk”.

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