A risk factor is anything that changes your chance of getting a disease like cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed.
As with most cancers the risk of developing ovarian cancer increases as a woman gets older. Women over the age of 50 have a higher risk, and most cases of ovarian cancer occur in women who have already gone through the menopause. More than half the cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed are women over 65 years. Although it is not common for younger women to get ovarian cancer.
Obesity has been linked to a higher risk of developing many cancers. The current information available for ovarian cancer risk and obesity is not clear. Obese women (those with a body mass index [BMI] of at least 30) may have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, but not necessarily the most aggressive types, such as high grade serous cancers.
Women who have their first full-term pregnancy after age 35 or who never carried a pregnancy to term have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
Fertility treatment with in vitro fertilization (IVF) seems to increase the risk of the type of ovarian tumors known as "borderline" or "low malignant potential. Other studies, however, have not shown an increased risk of invasive ovarian cancer with fertility drugs. If you are taking fertility drugs, you should discuss the potential risks with your doctor.
Women using estrogens after menopause have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. The risk seems to be higher in women taking estrogen alone (without progesterone) for many years (at least 5 or 10). The increased risk is less certain for women taking both estrogen and progesterone.
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80 – 85 per cent of ovarian cancer cases are 'sporadic'. This means they are one-offs, not inherited and close female relatives face no significant increase in their risk of developing the disease themselves. This is important to remember, as it can be worrying if a close family member is affected by ovarian cancer. In most cases women can be reassured.
The remaining 15 – 20 per cent of cases are believed to be caused by an inherited faulty (or mutated) gene, which is often the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Women who inherit a mutated copy of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene (BReast CAncer 1 and 2) have a much higher risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer than the general population.
About 5 to 10% of ovarian cancers are a part of family cancer syndromes resulting from inherited changes (mutations) in certain genes.
This syndrome is caused by inherited mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, as well as possibly some other genes that have not yet been found. This syndrome is linked to a high risk of breast cancer as well as ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancers.
In this syndrome, also known as Cowden disease, people are primarily affected with thyroid problems, thyroid cancer, and breast cancer. Women also have an increased risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer. It is caused by inherited mutations in the PTEN gene.
Women with this syndrome have a very high risk of colon cancer and also have an increased risk of developing cancer of the uterus (endometrial cancer) and ovarian cancer. Many different genes can cause this syndrome.
People with this rare genetic syndrome develop polyps in the stomach and intestine while they are teenagers. They also have a high risk of cancer, particularly cancers of the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon). Women with this syndrome have an increased risk of ovarian cancer, including both epithelial ovarian cancer and a type of stromal tumor called sex cord tumor with annular tubules (SCTAT).
People with this syndrome develop polyps in the colon and small intestine and have a high risk of colon cancer. They are also more likely to develop other cancers, including cancers of the ovary and bladder. This syndrome is caused by mutations in the gene MUTYH.
If you have had breast cancer, you might also have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. There are several reasons for this. Some of the reproductive risk factors for ovarian cancer may also affect breast cancer risk. The risk of ovarian cancer after breast cancer is highest in those women with a family history of breast cancer.
Smoking can increase the risk of certain types of ovarian cancer. Approximately three per cent of some types of ovarian cancer seem to be linked to exposure to tobacco smoke. Other types of ovarian cancer are not associated with smoking.
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The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown.
But some things may increase a woman's risk of getting it, such as:
By maintaining a weekly exercise regime and a healthy diet, the risk of ovarian cancer decreases. By working out 30 minutes every day, you can decrease your risk by up to 20%. Along with an active lifestyle, incorporating certain foods into your diet can also decrease your risk. Foods like beans, eggs, nuts, and other foods that provide Vitamin D are recommended as well as foods high in Vitamin A like carrots, leafy greens, and sweet potatoes.
3. Avoiding Carcinogens
Carcinogens are substances that is capable of causing cancer. There are many of these substances that cause cancer only if you are already at risk of developing cancer, such as a family history or a genetic mutation. However, there are some that are capable of causing cancer regardless. Avoiding substances such as talcum powder, which has been found in everyday products such as baby powder, vaginal deodorants and makeup, could decrease your risk of ovarian cancer. There are many women who have used some of these products regularly near the genital area and have developed ovarian cancer. This has lead to numerous lawsuits against companies that develop these products in a way to create awareness to help women avoid products like these.
4. Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
Women who have birthed at least one child, especially before the age of 30, have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. This risk lowers for each child a woman births. Not only that, but women who breastfeed their children also have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer
5. Healthy Lifestyle
Avoiding the use and exposure of tobacco products can not only lower your risk for ovarian cancer, but many other types of cancer as well. It’s also recommended to limit your alcohol consumption to three drinks per week. Avoiding tobacco and limiting your alcohol consumption, as well as following the above tip to exercise daily and maintain a healthy diet can decrease your risk of ovarian cancer.
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Ovarian cancer rates are highest in women aged 55-64 years. The median age at which women are diagnosed is 63, meaning that half of women are younger than 63 when diagnosed with ovarian cancer and half are older.
The median age of death from ovarian cancer is 70. Ovarian cancer survival rates are much lower than other cancers that affect women. Five-year survival rates are commonly used to compare different cancers. The relative five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 48% percent. Survival rates vary greatly depending on the stage of diagnosis. Women diagnosed at an early stage before the cancer has spread have a much higher five-year survival rate than those diagnosed at a later stage. Approximately 15 percent (14.8 percent) of ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed early with early stage disease.
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