The exact causes of ovarian cancer are still unknown, but the likelihood of developing the disease may be higher if a woman has one or more ovarian risk factors. One key risk factor is age. Most women who develop ovarian cancer are diagnosed after menopause, at age 55 or older, though patients in their 40s and 50s have also been diagnosed with the disease in the past. If you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you may also be at bigger risk than others. Talk to your doctor about genetic testing and other steps you may be able to take to monitor or reduce your ovarian cancer risk. Here are 10 dangerous ovarian cancer risk factors.
The risk of developing ovarian cancer gets bigger with age. Ovarian cancer is rare in women younger than 40. Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause. Half of all ovarian cancers are found in women 63 years of age or even older.
2. Inherited faulty genes
Most ovarian cancers occur due to gene changes that develop during a woman’s life and are not inherited. But between 5 and 15 out of 100 ovarian cancers are caused by an inherited faulty gene. Faulty inherited genes that increase the risk of ovarian cancer include BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes also increase the risk of breast cancer. If you are worried about your family history of ovarian cancer, speak to your healthcare physician. They can tell you whether you need a referral to a genetics service.
Numerous studies have looked at the relationship of obesity and ovarian cancer. Overall, it seems that obese women have a much higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
4. Previous breast cancer
Breast cancer and ovarian cancer can sometimes occur due to the same faulty genes. Women who have had breast cancer have double chances of developing ovarian cancer compared to other women. If their breast cancer was diagnosed before the age of 40, their risk is even higher. If you think you may have a faulty gene, make sure to speak to your doctor.
5. Birth control
Women who have birth control pills have a lower risk of ovarian cancer. However, the lower risk is seen after only 3 to 6 months of using the pill, and the risk is lower the longer the pills are used. This lower risk continues for many years after the pill is stopped. A recent study found that the women who used depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, an injectable hormonal contraceptive, had a lower risk of ovarian cancer. The risk was even lower if the women had used it for 3 or more years.
Smoking can increase the risk of certain types of ovarian cancer such as mucinous ovarian cancer. The longer you have smoked, the greater the risk. Around 3 out of 100 cases of ovarian cancer in the US are thought to be linked to smoking.
7. Gynecologic surgery
Tubal ligation (having your tubes tied) may reduce the chance of developing ovarian cancer by up to two-thirds. A hysterectomy, removing the uterus without removing the ovaries, also seems to reduce the risk of getting ovarian cancer by about one-third.
8. Using talcum powder
Using talc based body powder between your legs increases the risk of ovarian cancer. The powder could, in theory, travel up into the vagina and then through the cervix into the womb. If it then worked its way down the fallopian tubes to the ovaries, it could get into the ovaries themselves and cause irritation. Constant irritation could potentially cause inflammation and lead to cancerous changes in cells. Using talc based powder on other areas of your body has not been linked to ovarian cancer.
Androgens are male hormones. Danazol, a drug that increases androgen levels, was linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer in a small study. In a larger study, this link was not confirmed, but women who took androgens were found to have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
10. Having endometriosis
Research has shown that women with endometriosis have an increase in their ovarian cancer risk compared to women who do not.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. On the other hand, not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.