Various epidemiological studies have indicated a number of genetic and environmental factors that can predispose ovarian cancer. Following is a list of ovarian cancer risk factors:
- Early menarche/late menopause: Commencement of menstrual cycles (menarche) at an early age or cessation of menstrual cycles (menopause) at a later age than normal have been reported to elevate the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Family history: Risk of developing ovarian cancer increases in females with a history of ovarian, breast, and some other cancers in close relatives. The risk further increases with the increase in the number of affected relatives.
- Genetic Cancer Predisposition Syndromes: Some inherited cancer predisposition syndromes (caused by a mutation in certain genes which are generally transferred from one generation to other) have been reported to be associated with a high incidence rate of ovarian cancer.
Following are some examples: mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, Cowden disease (caused due to defect in PTEN gene); Lynch syndrome (or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer [HNPCC] caused due mutation in genes: MLH1, MLH3, MSH2, MSH6, PMS1, PMS2, etc); Li-Fraumeni syndrome (caused due mutation in TP53 gene), etc.
- Delayed marriage or childbirth: It has been reported that women who got married at a later age and have pregnancy after 35 years of age or who never had a full-term pregnancy are at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Hormonal replacement therapy: Women who are using or have used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause for many years, are generally at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition characterized by the appearance of endometrial tissue at places other than the usual place (the uterus), such as on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, etc. This condition can increase the risk of ovarian cancer, especially clear cell and endometrioid type.
- Obesity: An increased body mass index or waist circumference has also been linked to increased risk of ovarian cancer.
- Age: Ovarian cancer generally occurs at higher age and risk increases with age.
Apart from the above-listed risk factors, certain factors which can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer have also been reported. Such protective factorsmay include the use of oral contraceptives or intrauterine devices for birth control, tubal ligation or hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus), breastfeeding, etc.
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To further understand the disease in a better way, have a look at the video below where CancerBro meets Mrs. Owen who has recently being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. CancerBro asks Mrs. Owen several important questions related to her disease from early symptoms which lead her to contact an oncologist to various other risk factors related to ovary cancer.
To make you understand the disease better, we will meet Mrs. Owen ovarian cancer patient today. She has recently been diagnosed with cancer.
Mrs. Owen is a 65-year-old lady, who lives with her husband. They don’t have any children.
She has recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Let’s meet her.
Cancerbro: Hi Mrs. Owen, I am very sorry to hear about your illness. How are you feeling today?
Mrs. Owen: CancerBro, me and my husband were very worried when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but after coming here and talking to you we are feeling a bit relaxed.
CancerBro: That’ great Mrs. Owen. I am always there for my patients. Can I ask you a few questions related to your disease?
Mrs. Owen: Yeah, sure CancerBro, why not? Please go ahead.
CancerBro: What were your complaints for which you consulted your doctor?
Mrs. Owen: I had abdominal pain, increased abdominal size and difficulty eating and feeling full for last three months. It was associated with increased urinary frequency and urgency.
CancerBro: When did you start having menses and when did you get married?
Mrs. Owen: My menses started at 11 years and I got married at 34 years of age.
CancerBro: When did you attain menopause? Did you take any hormone replacement therapy after menopause?
Mrs. Owen: I attained menopause at 56 years. Yes, I was on hormone replacement therapy after menopause.
CancerBro: Did anyone else in your close relatives had ovarian, breast or any other cancer?
Mrs. Owen: Yes, my mother had a breast cancer and my mother’s sister had ovarian cancer.
I think you must have got an idea of how a patient with ovarian cancer presents and what are the risk factors for the disease.
And in the following video, Cancerbro explains the various risk factors associated with ovary cancer.
CancerBro, Could you please discuss the ovary cancer risk factors in detail?
Early age of starting menses and late age of menopause are the risk factors for the disease.
Late age of marriage increases the risk of ovary cancer.
Also, no child or late birth, after 30 to 35 years of age increases the risk of ovary cancer.
Inadequate breastfeeding also increases the risk of ovary cancer.
Intake of hormone replacement therapy after menopause increases the risk of ovary cancer and consumption of birth control pills decreases the risk.
Increasing obesity is also a risk factor, therefore, the regular physical activity may help in reducing the risk of ovary cancer.
History of breast or ovary cancer in close relatives increases the risk in other family members.
So these were the ovarian cancer risk factors.