Ovarian cancer develops in the ovaries or nearby tissues like the fallopian tubes.
According to the American Cancer Society, a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is about 1 in 78, although the rate of new diagnoses has been falling.
There’s currently no way to prevent ovarian cancer. However, there are certain things that can help reduce your risk.
The things below may help to reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer:
- Managing weight. If you have overweight or obesity, take with your doctor about ways to manage your weight.
- Taking birth control pills. Ovarian cancer risk is estimated to be 50 percent lower in women who’ve taken birth control pills for 5 years or longer. Risk is reduced for years after you stop taking combined birth control pills.
- Finding alternatives to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Consider talking with your doctor about alternatives to HRT after menopause.
- Giving birth and breastfeeding. The risk of ovarian cancer
decreaseswith each birth. Additionally, each month of breastfeeding is associated with a 2 percent decrease in ovarian cancer risk.
- Having preventive surgeries. Some types of gynecological surgery can lower the risk of ovarian cancer, including:
- removal of the uterus (hysterectomy)
Each of these things has different benefits and risks. Additionally, some are relatively easy to follow, while others require surgery. Because of this, certain preventive methods may not be recommended for everyone.
If you have concerns about your risk of ovarian cancer, discuss them with a doctor. They can help gauge your risk level and recommend a preventive strategy that’s appropriate for you.
There are several known risk factors for ovarian cancer. Some of these include:
- age, as about half of new diagnoses are in people age 63 or older
- giving birth at a later age
- never giving birth
- taking HRT after menopause
- using fertility treatments
Other main risk factors involve your personal and family medical history, including:
- a family history of:
- a personal history of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or uterine cancer
- inherited genetic changes in specific genes like BRCA1 or BRCA2
- having certain medical conditions, such as:
- a family cancer syndrome, such as Lynch syndrome or Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
- overweight or obesity
If you’re at higher risk for ovarian cancer, talk with your doctor about screening tests. These tests can help doctors detect cancer in those without symptoms. This is important since early cancers of the ovaries don’t always cause symptoms, or symptoms are vague and easily dismissed because they resemble other common illnesses.