What is ovarian cancer and why is it linked to talc?

Mother hugging 10 year old daughter, crafting at kitchen table

What is ovarian cancer?

When asking ‘what is ovarian cancer’, it’s important to understand what ovaries are. There are two ovaries which form part of a woman’s reproductive system. They’re the organs which produce, store and release female sex hormones and eggs for fertilisation. 

Ovarian cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the ovaries. When cancerous cells develop, they can grow quickly and destroy healthy body tissue, eventually forming a tumour. 

There are several different types of ovarian cancer. The most common type is epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC), but there are several much rarer types which include sex cord-stromal tumours and germ cell tumours. The type of ovarian cancer you’re diagnosed with depends upon the type of cells the cancer develops in. 

Statistics reported by Cancer Research UK state that there are approximately 7,500 cases of ovarian cancer reported in the UK each year. This accounts for 4% of all new reported cases of cancer in females, which makes it the 6th most common type of cancer.

Is ovarian cancer fatal?

Tragically, there are approximately 4,100 deaths from ovarian cancer in the UK each year. According to Cancer Research UK, 45% of those are females aged over 75. On a slightly more positive note, the survival rate has almost doubled in the UK in the last 50 years. This is no doubt a result of improved treatments and increased awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, which results in early diagnosis. 

As with most cancers, the quicker you’re diagnosed, the better the survival rate. There are 4 stages of cancer that describe the size of the tumour and how far it’s spread. If a diagnosis and treatment are received for ovarian cancer when it’s at stage 1, the survival rate is much higher. 

Ovarian cancer survival statistics by stage

Who's most at risk of developing ovarian cancer?

According to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 50 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer at some point in their lifetime. The risk of developing ovarian cancer increases in women when they reach approximately 45 years of age. Women aged over 75 years old are most at risk with an estimated 28% of new cases in the UK each year. 

That being said, ovarian cancer can develop at any age, in anyone with ovaries. 

What causes ovarian cancer?

There’s sometimes no obvious cause of ovarian cancer. However, there can be underlying factors that may be the cause or may have contributed to its development.  


If family members have at some point in their lives had ovarian cancer, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re likely to develop it. However, a family history of ovarian cancer is said to increase the risk. Some cancers are caused by inherited faulty genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. When faulty, they can increase the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer.  

Medical conditions

It’s thought that certain medical conditions such as endometriosis and diabetes can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. There are also genetic conditions that can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer. These include Lynch syndrome and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome. Medications such as HRT may also increase the risks.


According to a report in the Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health 2016, there have been numerous studies relating to breastfeeding and childbirth. In summary, it suggests that giving birth to a child and breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. It also suggests the more children you have and breastfeed, the more it reduces the risk. 

Health conditions

In addition to medical conditions, your health is also a factor. There may be an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer if you’re overweight or a smoker. If you want to improve your health condition, the NHS offers a range of helpful advice, information, and tools. If you’d like to lose weight, you can visit the NHS Better Health Service. If you’d like to quit smoking, you can visit the NHS Stop Smoking Service.  


Asbestos is a natural mineral that is made up of microscopic fibres. These fibres are extremely harmful to health when inhaled or when they enter the reproductive tract. They’re known to cause, or increase the risk of, certain cancers, such as mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Generally, it’s fairly common for women to sometimes feel bloated, have a tender stomach, have a tender pelvic area, lose their appetite, feel tired, or urinate more often. However, if any of these symptoms occur regularly, approximately 12 times or more a month, they could be symptoms of ovarian cancer.  

There are also more extreme symptoms of ovarian cancer, such as indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea, weight loss, extreme tiredness, and vaginal bleeding. 

If you suffer any of these symptoms, you should visit your GP without delay. 

Why is talc linked to ovarian cancer?

Talc is a natural mineral made up of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. It’s mined from rock deposits before it’s crushed into a fine powder. Asbestos is also a natural mineral that often forms close to talc. It’s made up of fibres which can be extremely dangerous.

When talc is mined, there’s a significant risk of cross-contamination, given its close proximity to asbestos. This means there’s a high probability that asbestos fibres have been present in talcum powder products. 

It’s well known that talcum powder is used to absorb moisture and reduce friction, so it’s often used in the genital area. When tiny asbestos fibres enter the reproductive tract, it can trigger inflammation which may cause cells to change genetically. When this happens, and these cells multiply, it can lead to ovarian cancer. 

As a result, this has put a significant number of consumers at risk and unfortunately, many may already have lost their lives as a result. 

We represent the family of one of these tragic cases, Maureen, who lost her life to ovarian cancer in 1991. Maureen didn’t fit the profile of someone likely to get ovarian cancer. She was a slim, fit, and healthy 35-year-old when she passed away. She was the mother of 3 sons, then aged 17, 12, and 5, and there was no family history of ovarian cancer.  

However, Maureen did use talcum powder on a regular basis. Her widow, Jeff, recalls there was always talc in their bathroom and that Maureen used talc all over her body after showering. Now, over 30 years after her death, we’re acting for Jeff and their 3 sons, now aged 49, 44, and 38, to seek justice. You can read more about this story in a recent Daily Mail article.

Contact us

As manufacturers failed to warn people about the risks of using talcum powder, we’re currently pursuing a group talcum powder claim to bring them to justice. 

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and have used talcum powder products regularly, you have the right to seek justice and compensation.  

We have a wealth of experience in successfully representing consumers in group action claims. Not only have we achieved justice for them but have also secured them substantial awards of compensation. 

To find out more about the talcum powder claim visit our talc FAQs page or click the button below to join the claim.