Learn the factors that increase your risk of developing this cancer.

Ovarian cancer strikes only a small percentage of women, but it can be deadly. It causes more deaths than any cancer of the female reproductive system. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to learn the factors that increase a woman's chance of developing the disease.

Factors You Can’t Control

  • Genetics – mutations in genes called BRCA1 and 2 are linked to higher rates of ovarian cancer. Other genetic mutations can lead to Lynch Syndrome. While more closely associated with colorectal cancer, it can be a factor with ovarian cancer too.
  • Family history – if any close female relatives have had ovarian or breast cancer, your chances of developing ovarian cancer are higher.
  • Personal medical history – if you had or have breast cancer or certain other cancers (including melanoma and uterine cancer), your risk increases. Taking estrogen alone after menopause for hormone replacement therapy also boosts the risks.
  • Reproductive history – if you cannot (or choose not to) have children, you might be at higher risk. Each full-term pregnancy a woman has reduces her chance of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Age – most ovarian cancers are diagnosed in women who have gone through menopause.

Lifestyle Choices and Other Controllable Factors

  • Diet – a low-fat diet has been tied to lower rates of ovarian cancer.
  • Fertility drugs – women who are at a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer should avoid clomiphene citrate (Clomid), as this drug has shown to further increase your risk.
  • Contraception – using birth control pills or injectable hormone contraceptives lowers the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Assessing the Risk

If you’re curious about your risk of developing ovarian cancer, there are several online assessment tools available, including one here. Of course, if you’re truly concerned, you should see your doctor.

At North Hills Hospital, we’re concerned about women’s health too. If you’re looking for  a physician to address reproductive or other health issues, use our online physician finder or call 1-855-5NHILLS for a referral.

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