Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

What is the most common cause of ovarian cancer?

How can you reduce the risk of getting ovarian cancer?

How common is ovarian cancer by age?
Ovarian cancer risk factors

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.

What are risk factors?
  • Age

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. 

  • Being overweight or obese

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.

  • Having children later or never having a full-term pregnancy

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.

  • Using fertility treatment

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.

  • Taking hormone therapy after menopause

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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  • Having a family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or colorectal cancer

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.

  • Having a family cancer syndrome

About 5 to 10% of ovarian cancers are a part of family cancer syndromes resulting from inherited changes (mutations) in certain genes.

  • Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome

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.

  • PTEN tumor hamartoma syndrome

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.

  • Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer

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.

  • Peutz-Jeghers 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).

  • MUTYH-associated polyposis

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.

  • Having had breast cancer

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 and alcohol use

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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What is the most common cause of ovarian cancer?

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown.

But some things may increase a woman's risk of getting it, such as:

  • being over the age of 50
  • a family history of ovarian or breast cancer this could mean you have inherited genes that increase your cancer risk
  • hormone replacement therapy (HRT) although any increase in cancer risk is likely to be very small
  • endometriosis a condition where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb is found outside the womb
  • being overweight
  • smoking
  • lack of exercise
  • exposure to asbestos
How can you reduce the risk of getting ovarian cancer?
  1. Exercise and Diet

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.

  1. Oral Contraceptives
    Women who have a history of taking oral contraceptives are studied to have up to a 50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. The longer the medication is used, the lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Oral contraceptives are not for everyone, so be sure to consult your physician to see if this is what works best for you.

    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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How common is ovarian cancer by age?

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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10 common questions about Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

1Who is at high risk for ovarian cancer?
One key risk factor is age. Most women who develop ovarian cancer are diagnosed after menopause, at age 55 or older, though patients in their 40s and 50s have also been diagnosed with the disease. If you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you may also be at an increased risk.
2What is the main risk factor for developing ovarian cancer?
About 20 to 25 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a hereditary tendency to develop the disease. The most significant risk factor for ovarian cancer is an inherited genetic mutation in one of two genes: breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2).
3What age group is at risk for ovarian cancer?
The risk of developing ovarian cancer gets higher with age. Ovarian cancer is rare in women younger than 40. Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause. Half of all ovarian cancers are found in women 63 years of age or older
4Can you get ovarian cancer if you have no ovaries?
A partial hysterectomy removes your uterus, and a total hysterectomy removes your uterus and your cervix. Both procedures leave your ovaries intact, so you can still develop ovarian cancer. Total hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy. ... This makes ovarian cancer less likely to occur, but it does not remove all risk
5Why is Nulliparity a risk factor for ovarian cancer?
Continuous ovulation associated with nulliparity increases the likelihood of ovarian malignancy. Protective factors include conditions that suspend ovulation, such as pregnancy, lactation and oral contraceptive use. ... Finally, ovarian cancer risk is altered by environmental and behavioral factors
6Can you feel ovarian cancer?
Bloating, abdominal pain, or digestive problems may characterize ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer does not cause any noticeable symptoms in the early stages. The symptoms most associated with ovarian cancer tend to develop in the later stages of the condition, as growths put pressure on the bladder, uterus, and rectum
7Can an ultrasound detect ovarian cancer?
The 2 tests used most often (in addition to a complete pelvic exam) to screen for ovarian cancer are transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) and the CA-125 blood test. TVUS (transvaginal ultrasound) is a test that uses sound waves to look at the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries by putting an ultrasound wand into the vagina
8What lowers risk of ovarian cancer?
Although there is no known way to completely prevent ovarian cancer, research has shown that there are some things that can reduce a woman's risk of developing the disease. They include: Oral Contraception: Birth control pills reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, especially among women who use them for several years
9Can 20 year olds get ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is rare in women younger than 40. The latest data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) found that the percentage of new cases was 4 percent between the ages of 20 and 34. The percentage of ovarian cancer-related deaths in the same age group was less than 1 percent
10Does ovarian cancer run families?
An estimated 15 percent of ovarian cancer diagnoses are linked to genetic predisposition, or hereditary factors passed down through family genes. The vast majority of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers are caused by mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

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