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Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

En Español (Spanish Version)

Main Page | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Screening | Reducing Your Risk | Talking to Your Doctor | Living With Ovarian Cancer | Resource Guide

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop ovarian cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing ovarian cancer. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for ovarian cancer appear to be related mainly to your genetic makeup and the number of times you ovulate. Risk factors include:

Gender

Because only women have ovaries, ovarian cancer occurs exclusively in women.

Medical Conditions

Your risk of ovarian cancer may increase if you:
  • Have survived breast cancer
  • History of uterus, colon, or rectal cancer
  • Have never been pregnant
  • Started your period early or went through menopause late
  • Certain gene mutations, including BRCA1, BRCA2
  • Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome or obesity
  • Endometriosis
The risk of ovarian cancer tends to be slightly lower in women who:
  • Take birth control pills
  • Have had a tubal ligation
  • Have had a hysterectomy
  • Breastfed

Genetic Factors

Rates of Ovarian cancer are 3-5 times higher in women with a mother or sister who had ovarian cancer. If you have a family history of ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor about your options for care and treatment. You should undergo additional testing, as well as consider preventative treatments. Some women with a history of familial cancer, which tends to occur at younger ages than in the general population, will decide to have their ovaries removed to prevent development of cancer.

Age

The incidence of ovarian cancer increases with age until the age of 75. The disease is rare in women under the age of 30, though it can be seen in younger women.

 

References:

  • Kasper DL, Harrison TR. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1998.
  • Ovarian cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/ovarian/. Accessed January 3, 2014. Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated December 2013. Accessed January 3, 2014

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