Ovarian cancer is cancer that begins in the ovaries or nearby tissues like the fallopian tubes. Although research is ongoing, we still don’t know what exactly causes ovarian cancer to occur. However, researchers have identified several risk factors. These risk factors can increase your likelihood of developing ovarian cancer.
The risk factors for ovarian cancer are:
- having a family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or uterine cancer
- having a personal history of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or uterine cancer
- having inherited genetic changes in certain genes, such as those in BRCA1 or BRCA2
- having a family cancer syndrome like
Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, MUTYH (or MYH)-associated polyposis, or PTEN tumor hamartoma syndrome
- being an older age, with the
American Cancer Societyreporting half of cases in women 63 years and older
- having overweight or obesity
- having endometriosis
- having children at a later age or never giving birth
- taking hormone replacement therapy after reaching menopause
- receiving fertility treatments
- smoking cigarettes
If you have one or more of the risk factors we’ve described above, it’s important to watch out for signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and contact a doctor right away if they occur.
A note about risk factors
When discussing risk factors, it’s important to remember that having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that you’re certain to get ovarian cancer. It simply means that you’re at an increased risk compared with the general population.
While we don’t have any known ways to prevent ovarian cancer, we do know of certain things that can help to lower your risk of developing it. These include:
- taking birth control pills
- avoiding or quitting smoking
- managing weight if you have overweight or obesity
- using alternatives to hormone replacement therapy after menopause
- giving birth
- having certain types of procedures, including:
- removal of the uterus (hysterectomy)
- removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy), fallopian tubes (salpingectomy), or both (salpingo-oophorectomy), which can also be done during a hysterectomy
Many of the factors above have different risks and benefits associated with them. Because of this, they may not be recommended for everyone.
Talk with a doctor about your level of risk
If you have one or more risk factors for ovarian cancer, be sure to talk with a doctor about your level of risk. They can recommend steps that you can take to reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer in the future, or catch it at an early stage.