So far the causes of ovarian cancer are not known. However, certain factors are associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer and other factors appear to reduce the risk. Factors that increase the risk are as follows;
Half of this cancer diagnoses occur in women over 55 years where most begin after menopause.
Family History of Ovarian, Breast or Colon & Rectum Cancer
Women whose mothers, sisters or daughters have had ovarian cancer are at increased risk. The risk also increases if you have relatives, aunts or grandmothers, both paternal and maternal, who have suffered from this cancer, breast cancer or colorectal cancer.
Personal History of Breast Cancer
Women who have had breast cancer are at increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Women who have certain variants of BRCA1 and BRAC2 genes have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
A study of the American Cancer Society found that obese women appear to be at increased risk of developing and dying from this cancer than non-obese women.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology suggests that women who take estrogen alone as hormone replacement therapy after menopause have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
Factors Associated with a Lower Risk of Ovarian Cancer
Women who have had children have a lower risk. Women who have higher number of children have lower risk. The risk also appears to decreased if the mother breastfed baby.
Use of Birth Control Pills
Women who have taken the pills for more than five years seem to have a lower risk.
Women who have tubes tied or who have the uterus removed (hysterectomy) seem to have a lower risk.
Having one or more risk factors does not determine that the person will suffer from cancer. It only indicates that the probability of suffering is greater in the person with risk factors compared with individuals without risk factors. Similarly, having children or taking birth control pills does not guarantee that women can be free from this cancer.
On the other hand, there are people with several risk factors who never develop cancer, just as there are cancer patients who have none of the risk factors.
What can you do with this information?
Sometimes much information can be overwhelming, but it can also help you plan strategies to prevent or reduce the risk of developing this disease.
There are factors that you can change and others do not. Those that you can change such as reducing weight are in your hands. Keep ideal weight as it is one of the factors under your control that allow you to reduce the risk of serious diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Find out about the factors you cannot change, for example, if you have close relatives who have had ovarian cancer. If this is the case, consult your doctor about medical tests to try to detect cancer early by regular checkups; this is the best defense, so try to diagnose it early before the tumor grows and spreads to other parts of the body.
If so you have close relatives with genetic variants such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that increase the risk of this cancer and others such as breast, and the fallopian tubes, you should consult with your doctor to recommend a genetic counselor. This specialist can inform you about the options available to reduce your risk of ovarian cancer.