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Ovarian Cancer Center

Ovarian Cancer Causes and Risk Factors

What causes ovarian cancer?
The exact causes of ovarian cancer are not known. Doctors cannot always explain why one woman develops ovarian cancer and another does not. However, ovarian cancers seems to be more common in women who live in developed countries that those who live in emerging countries.

Risk factors
Some factors might contribute to the development of ovarian cancer. For example, you're at higher risk of ovarian cancer if you have a family or personal history of other types of cancers. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In fact, most women who fall within the following risk groups do not develop ovarian cancer. Some of the risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

Age - Most ovarian cancers happen after menopause. In fact, most women are 55+ when diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Alcohol - Some studies have found an increased risk for mucinous ovarian cancer in women who drink more than one alcoholic beverage a day.

Breast cancer - Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Family medical history - Ovarian cancer can run in families. Women with a mother, daughter, or sister who has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer are at increased risk of ovarian cancer. Women with a family history of cancer of the breast, uterus, colon, or rectum may also have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. The younger your family member was when she got ovarian cancer, the higher the risk. The risk also gets higher the more relatives you have with ovarian cancer.

Genetics - About 1 in 10 cases of ovarian cancers are linked to gene changes. Genetic tests can sometimes show the presence of specific gene changes that increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Hormones – Some hormones that increase male androgen or estrogen levels may create an increased risk of ovarian cancer. This is especially true for women who undergo estrogen replacement therapy and hormone replacement therapy. The risk seems to be higher in women taking estrogen alone (without progesterone) for at least 5 or 10 years.

Medications - The use of fertility drugs for more than 1 year may increase the risk of LMP tumors.

Never pregnant - Older women who have never been pregnant have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Obesity - Obese or overweight women may have a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer than women within healthy weight limits.

Personal medical history - Women who have been diagnosed with cancer of the breast, uterus, colon, or rectum have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Smoking - Some studies have found an increased risk for one type of mucinous ovarian cancer in women smokers.

Talcum powder – There may be a slight increase in risk of ovarian cancer among women who used talcum powder (which contained asbestos) on the genital area.

How to decrease risk of ovarian cancer
There are some factors which can decrease risk of developing ovarian cancer. These include:

Diet – Women who follow a low-fat diet or a diet high in vegetables for at least 4 years may have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

Having children - A woman who has had children has a lower risk of ovarian cancer than women who have no children. The risk gets even lower with each pregnancy. Breast feeding may lower the risk for ovarian cancer even further.

Hormones - Using birth control pills can lower the risk of ovarian cancer.

Surgery - Tubal ligation or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus without removing the ovaries) may reduce the chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Do you know how to identify the symptoms of ovarian cysts or ovarian cancer? While some of the symptoms of ovarian problems are well known, such as lack of menstrual bleeding, there are additional symptoms to look for. Continue reading the symptoms section for more information about symptoms of ovarian cancer.

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