By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TVBy Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – It was a $72 million verdict in a talcum powder lawsuit. A Missouri jury just ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay up after a family claimed the product caused a woman’s ovarian cancer. The company plans to appeal insisting the powder is safe. Dr. Mallika Marshall spoke to an expert witness in the case who says the risk is real.

Johnson & Johnson may think the powder is safe, but some experts point to a body of evidence suggesting a link between the use of talcum powder in the genital area and the development of ovarian cancer.

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Scientists say that the powder can enter the pelvic cavity through the vagina and it has been found in ovarian tissue in women who have used it.

Dr. Daniel Cramer, Director of the OB/GYN Epidemiology Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has not only conducted some of the research himself, but he also provided written testimony for the plaintiffs in this case.

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“I think the link is a persuasive one,” says Dr. Cramer. “There have been more than 20 epidemiological studies and the majority of these have found an elevated risk, and when you combine those risks into a single estimate, it is highly significant.”

Data suggests that use of talcum powder in the genital area could increase the risk ovarian cancer by 30% or higher.

Dr. Cramer says many products on the market still contain talc, so check labels carefully. He says corn starch is a safe alternative, but that women really shouldn’t need to use any genital hygiene products.

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This recent verdict may just be the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Cramer says there are about 1200 other cases pending against both Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers.

Dr. Mallika Marshall