A douche flushes water up into the vagina and clears out natural secretions designed to keep the vagina healthy, which may increase the risk of infections.
There are concerns some douching products could introduce phthalates – chemicals that may disrupt hormone regulation – into the reproductive tract, which could increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
Concerns have also been raised that genital talc, often used in combination with douching, may increase cancer risk.
Douching was recently reported to be associated with elevated levels of urinary metabolites of endocrine disrupting phthalates, but there is no literature on douching in relation to ovarian cancer. Numerous case-control studies of genital talc use have reported an increased risk of ovarian cancer, but prospective cohort studies have not uniformly confirmed this association. Behavioral correlation between talc use and douching could produce confounding.
Douching, Talc Use, and Risk of Ovarian Cancer, Epidemiology, June 20, 2016.
The Sister Study (2003-2009) enrolled and followed 50,884 women in the US and Puerto Rico who had a sister diagnosed with breast cancer. At baseline participants were asked about douching and talc use during the previous 12 months. During follow-up (median of 6.6 years) 154 participants reported a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. We computed adjusted hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for ovarian cancer risk using the Cox proportional hazards model.
Vaginal douching ‘linked to increased ovarian cancer risk’, nhs choices, August 4 2016.
There was little association between baseline perineal talc use and subsequent ovarian cancer (HR: 0.73 CI: 0.44, 1.2). Douching was more common among talc users (OR: 2.1 CI: 2.0, 2.3), and douching at baseline was associated with increased subsequent risk of ovarian cancer (HR: 1.8 CI: 1.2, 2.8).
Douching but not talc use was associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer in the Sister Study.