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Can sanitary napkins cause cancer? A top gynaecologist reveals the truth

Updated on:6 February 2021, 13:25pm IST
Most of us lean on sanitary napkins to survive our periods. But what if these napkins are cancerous? A top gynae reveals it all
Nikita Bhardwaj
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The sanctity of sanitary pads is under threat. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Didn’t the headline send shivers down your spine? We can understand because a sanitary pad is always the first thing you need during your periods. They have become essential, and you use them without a thought every month. Although, there are many other options like menstrual cups or tampons that are readily available but a sanitary napkin is always the first choice. That’s why it has become really important to know whether using a sanitary pad can lead to cancer or not.

Google it and you will be bombarded with two trains of thoughts – one, which says that sanitary pads are totally safe, and all such studies have no meaning. And on the contrary, there is a second school of thought that agrees with the theory of sanitary pads being cancerous. Now, did this put you in a spot again?

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So to clear the air and find out if the pads are cancerous or not, we got in touch with renowned gynaecologist and obstetrician, Dr Aruna Kalra from CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram. And this is what she has to say.

Genital cancer can be a possibility if you use synthetic pads, says Dr Kalra

According to Dr Aruna Kalra, mostly, sanitary pads are safe to use, however, there are a few ongoing studies that have reported the incidence of genital cancer with the use of sanitary pads that use absorptive agents like dioxin and super-absorbent polymers, because the nature of the dioxin (present in sanitary pads) can get accumulated in the body, and impact our reproductive organs, which can cause cervical cancer or ovarian cancer.

“Basically, dioxin is a carcinogen, which means it promotes the formation of cancer causing cells in your body. The sanitary pads are bleached to improve their blood absorbing capacity, and this bleach contains dioxin,” says Dr Kalra.

The other problem with dioxin is that it suppresses the body’s immunity. This makes our vagina all the more vulnerable to infections. Plus, it impacts the production of reproductive hormones like estrogen which can be problematic in the longer run.  

can sanitary pads cause cancer
Maybe it’s time to look at the ingredients of your sanitary pads. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Of course, you won’t get cancer right away, but in due course of time, there is a possibility.

Here are some precautions that you can take, while wearing sanitary pads
  • Change the sanitary napkin frequently. “One should change sanitary pads every 3-4 hours, even if she is not menstruating heavily,” recommends Dr Kalra.
  • Maintain proper perineal hygiene
  • Stay hydrated during periods to avoid UTI
  • Always wear clean and dry underwear
Dr Kalra recommends some hygiene tips to follow during periods that can prevent cancer

  • Frequent changing of pads
  • Go for organic pads
  • Don’t go for sanitary pads with fragrance
  • Maintain proper hygiene and keep your vaginal area clean
  • Avoid using public washrooms
  • Look out for any rashes/itching around your vaginal area. 
  • Clean the reusable pads properly
  • Wear a comfortable and clean underwear
  • Discard your sanitary pads properly or it may become a breeding ground for infections.

So ladies choose your sanitary napkin wisely, because it can wreak havoc on your vagina. 

Nikita Bhardwaj Nikita Bhardwaj

Six-pack abs are all that Nikita needs, along with her daily dose of green tea. At Health Shots, she produces videos, podcasts, stories, and other kick-ass content.