Cases of Ovarian cancer in Kenya are more likely to be linked to genetics than carcinogenic elements, an expert has said.
Catherine Nyongesa, an oncologist at Kenyatta National Hospital and Texas Cancer Centre, said there was still no evidence in Kenya to link ovarian cancer to asbestos, which is a carcinogenic element (cancer causing substance).
However, from most of the cases presented in hospitals, according to expert, many women were predisposed to cancer because of their DNA make up, which is inherited.
Asbestos is one of the elements said to have been found in the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder that has been under scrutiny for years now.
This element is found in mines and is key in the manufacturing industry to produce heat-resistant clothing such as that of fire fighters and some roofing materials.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is no safe type of asbestos.
“All types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs),” said the global health body.
Exposure to asbestos, WHO says, occurs through inhalation of fibres in air in the working environment, ambient air in the vicinity of point sources such as factories handling asbestos, or indoor air in housing and buildings containing friable or crumbly asbestos materials.
“Most places where you can find asbestos is in the mines. Most women in Kenya do not work in mines, so there is still no evidence of linking ovarian cancer to the carcinogenic element,” said Dr Nyongesa.
In 2016, India’s food safety body, Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sent samples of Johnson & Johnson products for testing after a 62-year-old woman in the US died of ovarian cancer, but this was as a ‘precautionary measure’.
The relationship between talc and asbestos elements to ovarian and cervical cancer has been a puzzle to scientists and medical researchers for over five decades.
For example, a research paper in March 1971 published by the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Commonwealth found traces of talc in tissues extracted from patients.