"There’s still a lot we need to understand about what causes the disease"

Chief executive Katherine Taylor

This month, in light of the court case against Johnson & Johnson, our CEO Katherine Taylor advises women who have used talc not to panic, and looks again at the factors that have been proven to help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

"The link between ovarian cancer and talc has been in the news again, following a case found against Johnson & Johnson in the USA.  At the moment there isn’t conclusive evidence of a link between talc usage and ovarian cancer.  Studies have been retrospective – that means they look back at women who have been diagnosed and investigated their use of talc.  Scientists remain unconvinced and the pharmaceutical company will challenge the ruling. 

So what should we do – if we don’t have conclusive evidence, how can we make an informed choice?  My personal decision is not to use talc – it has other health questions around it such as the effect on our respiratory systems.   When my children were babies new mothers were advised not to use talc on their children as particles can get into the lungs.  But if you have used it, don’t panic.  The studies that have found a link with ovarian cancer suggest that the increased risk is small. 

But this story speaks to a bigger question – how can we protect ourselves against ovarian cancer?  Unfortunately, even leading a perfectly healthy lifestyle is no guarantee that a woman won't get ovarian cancer, and there’s still a lot we need to understand about what causes the disease. However, we do know that risk can be reduced through:

  • Knowing your family history.  If you’ve got a history of ovarian or breast cancer in your family, have a conversation with your doctor about genetic testing and options for reducing risk
  • Having a healthy lifestyle – not smoking and having a healthy weight