The Mis-marketing of Talcum Powder

The Deceptive Jingle

“Shower to Shower” powder has been marketed for almost 50 years, and for more than 30 years relied on a catchy jingle and slogan of “Just a sprinkle a day, helps keep odor away. Have yourself a sprinkle today.”

You might think this pitch for daily use implies that the product is completely safe, but a growing body of research is pointing to the dangers of regular talcum powder use by women. As early as 1982, one clinical study found that women who used talcum products daily had a 92% increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Marketing to Minorities

African-American Women May Have Increased Cancer Risk, Tied to Talc

In the 1990s, Johnson and Johnson outlined a plan to hike flagging sales of its powder by targeting minority women, according to a company memorandum made public in recent lawsuits against the manufacturer. The marketing strategy was apparently successful, as the company’s own research has found that African-American and Hispanic women tend to use talc more often.

Now a 2016 study of 584 black women with ovarian cancer and 745 black women without the disease, conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia, has found a solid link between the regular use of talcum powder and a diagnosis of ovarian cancer — regardless of where the women used it. According to the study, users of powder in genital areas had a more than a 40 percent increased risk of cancer, while those who used only non-genital powder still had an increased risk of more than 30 percent, compared to women who did not use the product at all.

An estimated 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 14,500 die from it annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.