Healthy Living

What Causes Ovarian Cancer?

What Causes Ovarian Cancer?

Key Takeaways

  • Most cases of ovarian cancer occur in women over 60-65 years, but this doesn’t mean that the disease will not affect younger or older women.
  • Some researchers found some links between infertility treatments and the increased risk for ovarian cancer.
  • Regular gynecologic examinations have to be a priority for every woman, regardless if she is in the group with high risk or in the group with low risk for ovarian cancer.

Doctors and scientists still hadn’t found the exact causes of ovarian cancer, but there are a few risk factors that may be closely connected to this disease. The epithelial type of ovarian cancer is the most common among women of every age. Women above their 60s are at highest risk, while those who have a family history with breast or ovarian cancer are also at risk. Some researchers had shown that pregnancy and birth control pills reduce the risk for ovarian cancer. The most common causes and risks of ovarian cancer are:

1. Genetic mutations and changes

There are inherited and acquired genetic changes that can cause ovarian cancer. For example, BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genetic mutations that can increase the risk of ovarian cancer and can easily be passed from mother to daughter. There are also a few other genetic mutations that can be inherited from another family member, including STK11 (Peutz-Jeghers syndrome) and MUTYH mutation that is connected to colon cancer.

There are a lot more genetic mutations (MLH1, MLH3, MSH2) that are hereditary. Sometimes, in a lifetime, people can be exposed to chemicals or radiations that can change their DNA. These mutations are acquired and sometimes happen to cause (or to increase the risk for) ovarian cancer.

2. Age

Most cases of ovarian cancer occur in women over 60-65 years, but this doesn’t mean that the disease will not affect younger or older women. Teenage girls that have a family history with breast or ovarian cancer are also at risk.

3. The number of women's ovulations

Women who got their period at an early age and those whose menopause started later are at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. However, women who have been pregnant two or more times have a lower risk. Those who never took contraceptives are at a high risk to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer during their life.

5. Infertility treatments

Some researchers found some links between infertility treatments and the increased risk for ovarian cancer. Women who need to go to infertility treatments are taking a lot of medications and hormones that can increase their risk for ovarian cancer. Some doctors suspect that infertility itself is a cause of ovarian cancer.

6. Obesity 

Being overweight can also increase a woman's risk for having ovarian cancer.

7. Hormone replacement therapies

These kinds of therapy sometimes can cause ovarian cancer. Some doctors believe that women are at high risk only during the therapy. After the therapy ends, their risk for ovarian cancer is reduced.

8. Endometriosis

Women with endometriosis are at 30% higher risk to develop ovarian cancer because the enormous growth of endometrial tissue can affect the ovaries. If that happens, the ovaries may increase the number of cells to cover a piece of endometrial tissue, as some natural way of protection. The bad thing is that, in that way, the ovaries develop tumors that later can develop into ovarian cancer.

Every woman needs to visit her gynecologist once or twice a year for a regular check-up and examination. It is the only way to prevent the disease that can affect the organs in the pelvis and abdomen. If there is any chance that the patient can develop ovarian cancer, they need to stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Lifestyle changes such as eating healthy food and doing exercises are highly recommended for those who have high risks of ovarian cancer. 

Regular gynecologic examinations have to be a priority for every woman, regardless if she is in the group with high risk or in the group with low risk for ovarian cancer.