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Ovarian cancer risk factors

Sometimes ovarian cancer called “silent killer” because in most cases ovarian cancer develops without any noticeable symptoms. This is why every woman should know ovarian cancer risk factors and try to avoid them as much as possible. If you have few ovarian cancer risk factors, it is increasing your chances to get ovarian cancer. But it should be also mentioned that having risk factor does not mean that a woman will get ovarian cancer.

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is not known but few factors can put you at a greater risk.

Ovarian cancer risk factors – Genetic

Family history of cancer is a strong risk factor especially if your mother, daughter or sister had ovarian cancer. Women with family history of cancer of the breast, uterus, colon or rectum may also have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. It was noted that about 20-25% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have genetic tendency to develop the disease. Genetic mutations of genes associated with ovarian cancer were discovered in breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2) – these genes are responsible for about 10-15% of all ovarian cancers. Since these genes are linked to both breast and ovarian cancer, women who have had breast cancer have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

According to scientists, Eastern European women and women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are at higher risk of carrying BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

Third genetic factor responsible for ovarian cancer is HNPCC (Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer) – so called “Lynch Syndrome”. Mainly this gen is causing colorectal cancer but women with HNPCC have about 12% lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer and even higher risk (about 40-60%) for uterine cancer development.

Ovarian cancer risk factors – Personal history of cancer

Women who have had cancer of breast, uterus, colon or rectum have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer risk factors – Age

In general all women are at risk of developing ovarian cancer but medical experts noted that ovarian cancer rates increase with age (after 55). The highest rates of ovarian cancer were diagnosed in women between 55 and 65 years.

Ovarian cancer risk factors – Reproductive history

Ovarian cancer risk factors

Women who have never been pregnant are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who have been pregnant three or more times. Women who had first child after 30 are also at the risk.

Early menarche (before12) and late menopause (after 55) are also considered as risk factors for ovarian cancer.

Infertility and several treatments for infertility can increase your risks for ovarian cancer development.

Researchers reported increased risks for ovarian cancer development in women with endometriosis. Studies suggest a link between ovarian endometriosis and ovarian cancer, possibly linked to mutation of the ARID1A gene.

Ovarian cancer risk factors – Hormonal therapy

Recent studies show that women who use HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) during menopause are at increased risk for ovarian cancer. Using a combination of estrogen and progestin for 5 or more years significantly increases the risk of ovarian cancer in women who did not have hysterectomy. Ten or more years use of estrogen can increase the risk of ovarian cancer in women who had hysterectomy for medical reasons.

Some experts suggest that intensive infertility hormonal treatments can also increase risks for ovarian cancer development.

Ovarian cancer risk factors – Obesity

Several studies discovered strong link between obesity and ovarian cancer – it was noted that obesity was associated with 75-80% increased risk of ovarian cancer in menopausal women (aged 50-70).

Ovarian cancer risk factors – Lifestyle

It has been estimated that about 20-22% of ovarian cancer can be attributable to lifestyle:

  • Smoking – almost 2% of cases of ovarian cancer may be caused by smoking;
  • Obesity – overweight was associated with 75-80% increased risk of ovarian cancer in menopausal women (aged 50-70);
  • Passive lifestyle (lack of physical activities) – medical experts prove that regular physical exercises can prevent some forms of ovarian cancer.

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