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Medical Experts Recommend Women Use Cornstarch Powder.

American Cancer Society and Other Cancer Groups Say Non-Talc Powders

Are Safe to Use

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., July 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Cancer Society (ACS) and National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC), among others are recommending that women use cornstarch powders, rather than talcum powders, in the genital area.

Media coverage of this topic in recent years has caused confusion among the millions of women who use powder in the feminine area. "Some reports did not differentiate between talc and cornstarch powders, despite the fact that recently published studies found a weak association between talcum and ovarian cancer," says Dr. Stephen Pennisi, a board-certified toxicologist and vice president of product safety at Combe Incorporated, maker of Vagisil(R) Feminine Powder, which has been made with cornstarch since its introduction 15 years ago. "There has been no study that has shown any risk of ovarian cancer with the use of cornstarch-based powder," he explains.

Consumers need to know that there are mainly two types of powders -- cornstarch and talc, he adds. Medical groups, such as the ACS, make a clear distinction between the two types of powders and offer recommendations to women on which ones are considered safe to use. For example, "Talcum Powder and Cancer" from the ACS states: "Until additional information is available, women may wish to consider avoiding these products or substituting cornstarch-based powders that contain no talc."

Joseph Imperato, M.D., president of the Illinois Division of the American Cancer Society, confirming this position, states: "The American Cancer Society currently recommends that women who wish to use powder use a cornstarch-based powder and avoid talc powders at this time."

Other cancer and health organizations concur with the ACS support of cornstarch powder. One such group is NOCC, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based national non-profit organization, which supports women with ovarian cancer through local chapters, an extensive web site and public education about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatments of this often deadly cancer. In its literature, NOCC states: "Until more research is conducted, it is prudent to avoid using talc powder in the genital region. There are a number of cornstarch-based powders on the market, however, which offer women a safe alternative."

Additionally, Louis Keith, M.D., a NOCC medical advisory board member and professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Northwestern University Medical School, says, "There has never been a shred of evidence suggesting that there's even a minute link between any product with cornstarch in it and ovarian cancer ... The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition has very simple advice for the 40 percent of American women who use some type of powder in the genital area. That advice is to avoid any powder that contains talcum and to seek out those products that contain cornstarch."

As further support for cornstarch, an extensive research paper, "Perineal Powder Containing Cornstarch," conducted by John Whysner, M.D., Toxicology and Risk Assessment Program at the American Health Foundation, confirms the safety of cornstarch. "We did the most comprehensive study that's been done to date on this topic. We reviewed the world's literature -- looked at over 50 research papers, and although there were some associations found between the use of talc-containing genital powders and ovarian cancer, there were not these types of associations found for cornstarch-containing powders."

Based on Dr. Whysner's expertise and the findings of this paper, he offers the following advice to women who wish to use feminine powder: "If a person is concerned about the risk of ovarian cancer from the use of talc-containing powders, I think that cornstarch-containing powder is a safe alternative."

When asked why cornstarch is safer to use than talc, Dr. Whysner says, "Cornstarch is the way that the corn plant stores energy. It's also the starch that is used in food products, and the body can digest cornstarch. Talc, on the other hand, is a mineral. It's mined from the earth, and the body has a difficult time removing it."

Dr. Pennisi adds, "Since cornstarch is derived from corn and that's a food, our body has natural enzymes to break it down rather easily, whereas talc, which is a mineral and not normally found in the body, cannot be broken down by the body."

The American Health Foundation paper, he adds, says essentially three things:

-- Unlike talc, cornstarch feminine powders have never been associated

with ovarian cancer.

-- By the very nature of cornstarch, any association with ovarian cancer

is not biologically plausible.

-- Cornstarch is a safe alternative to talc in feminine powders.

For more information about the safety of feminine powders, go to http://www.vagisil.com, http://www.ovarian.org, http://www.cancer.org.
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jul 7, 1999
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