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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer attacks the female reproductive glands. Most ovarian cancers are either epithelial carcinomas that start on the surface or "malignant germ cell tumors" that develop within the ovary itself.

Risk Factors

Ovarian cancer, which claimed the life of beloved comedienne Gilda Radner, is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Researchers have not yet determined the exact causes of the disease, but known risk factors include:

  • genetics and family history
  • age (post-menopausal women are at greater risk)
  • number of pregnancies
  • hormonal cycles
  • environmental exposure

The last item includes industrial chemicals, certain types of dyes, herbicides and asbestos.

The Asbestos Connection

Research studies dating back to the early 1980s have confirmed a direct connection between asbestos exposure and ovarian cancer; however, this is less likely to be due to industrial sources than it is the use of talcum powder, which is known to be contaminated with amphibole asbestos fibers - mainly tremolite and anthophyllite. Neither of these have ever been mined or used commercially, but deposits of these minerals are frequently found in and near talc mines. These types of fibers are of the deadly amphibole variety are one of the main causes of mesothelioma. There are different types of mesothelioma cancer that are linked to asbestos exposure including pericardial mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma. Unfortunately a mesothelioma prognosis is generally not favorable as there is no know cure for mesothelioma disease.

A pathology study from the 1970s reported embedded talc particles in 75 percent of ovarian tumors that were examined. In another study from 1999, over 45 ovarian cancer patients out of 100 reported using talc in the genital area. Women who did not use talc themselves, but whose husbands used talc on their genitalia were found to have a 50% greater risk of developing ovarian cancer.



Roggli, V., et. al. Pathology of Asbestos-Associated Diseases. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2004)

Cramer, D., et al. "Genital Talc Exposure and Risk of Ovarian Cancer." International Journal of Cancer (1999)

Henderson, W., et al. "Talc and Carcinoma of the Ovary and Cervix." Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (1974)

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