Using talcum powder just once a week to keep fresh can raise the risk of womb cancer by up to 24 per cent, a study has claimed.
It warned that powder particles applied to the genital area can travel into a woman’s body and trigger inflammation, which allows cancer cells to flourish.
Around 40 per cent of women are thought to use talc regularly as part of their personal hygiene routine.
Previous studies have linked talcum powder use with ovarian tumours.
However, this is the first research to suggest that it could also cause womb, or endometrial, cancer, a disease that kills around 1,000 women a year in England and Wales.
Scientists from Harvard Medical School in Boston investigated talc’s health risks and found a significant increase in risk in older women who had been through the menopause.
In the U.S. report, which was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, they said older women may be more at risk because they have been exposed to talc’s effects for longer.
‘Studies indicate that women start using talcum powder at an early age and continue using it for decades,’ the report said.
‘Talc is a known inflammatory agent.
‘Regular use, defined as at least once a week, was associated with a 24 per cent increase in risk among post-menopausal women.’
The results, which apply to talcum powder used in the genital area but not the rest of the body, came from 66,000 nurses who signed up to a long-term health and lifestyle study which began in 1982.
Almost 600 went on to develop womb cancer, the scientists said.
Last year, another Harvard team found daily talc use in the genital area raised a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by up to 41 per cent and urged all women to stop using it immediately.
The risks were greatest in the estimated one in ten Caucasian women with a certain genetic profile.
Women carrying a gene called glutathione S-transferase M1, or GSTM1, but lacking a gene called glutathione S-transferase T1 (GSTT1), were nearly three times as likely to develop ovarian tumours.
Talcum powder is made from a soft mineral called hydrous magnesium silicate that is found naturally.
It is crushed, dried and milled to produce powder used in cosmetic products by millions of women.
Some experts say it shares chemical similarities to asbestos, which can cause a deadly form of lung cancer called mesothelioma.
Tiny particles have been found to travel up through the genital tract and been found deep inside the pelvis.
They can also last inside the body for years.
It is estimated that one particle of talc in the lungs, for example, would take eight years to dissolve.
But Jessica Harris, of charity Cancer Research UK, said last night: ‘The results of this study are quite weak and could be down to chance.
‘The researchers agree that more research is needed before it is known if there’s really a link between talc and endometrial cancer.
‘And even if future research does prove a link, it’s important to remember that very few women who use talcum powder would ever develop endometrial cancer as a result.
‘For women looking to reduce their risk of endometrial cancer, one of the best things they can do is to keep a healthy body weight.’