Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may
help prevent cancer.
Avoiding cancer risk factors
may help prevent
certain cancers. Risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. Increasing protective factors
such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet
, and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.
The following are risk factors for ovarian cancer:Family history of ovarian cancer
A woman whose mother or sister had ovarian cancer
has an increased risk of ovarian cancer. A woman with two or more relatives with ovarian cancer also has an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The risk of ovarian cancer is increased in women who have inherited
certain changes in the BRCA1
, or other genes
The risk of ovarian cancer is also increased in women who have certain inherited syndromes
Hormone replacement therapy
The use of estrogen
-only hormone replacement therapy
(HRT) after menopause
is linked to a slightly increased risk of
ovarian cancer in women who are taking HRT or have taken HRT within the past 3 years. The risk of ovarian cancer increases the longer a woman uses estrogen-only HRT. When hormone therapy is stopped, the risk of ovarian cancer decreases over time.
It is not clear whether there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer with the use of HRT that has both estrogen and progestin
The use of talc
may cause a small increase in the risk of ovarian cancer. Talcum powder dusted on the perineum
(the area between the vagina
and the anus
) may reach the ovaries
by entering the vagina.
Weight and height
Being overweight or obese
during the teenage years, and gaining 40 or more pounds during adulthood is linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Being obese is linked to an increased risk of death from ovarian cancer. Being tall (5'8" or taller) may also be linked to a slight increase in the risk of ovarian cancer.
The following are protective factors for ovarian cancer:Oral contraceptives
Taking oral contraceptives
(â€œthe pillâ€) lowers the risk of ovarian
cancer. The longer oral contraceptives are used, the lower the risk may
be. The decrease in risk may last up to 30 years after a woman has stopped taking oral
Taking oral contraceptives increases the risk of blood clots
. This risk is higher in women who also smoke.
Breastfeeding is linked to a decreased risk of ovarian cancer. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the lower her risk of ovarian cancer.
Some women who have a high risk of ovarian cancer may choose to have a risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy
(surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries when there are no signs of cancer). This includes women who have inherited certain changes in the BRCA1
genes or have an inherited syndrome. (See the Risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy
section in the PDQ
health professional summary on Genetics of Breast and Gynecologic Cancers
for more information.)
These symptoms may not be the same in all women. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be used to lessen these symptoms.Risk of ovarian cancer in the peritoneum: Women who have had a risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy continue to have a small risk of ovarian cancer in the peritoneum (thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen). This may occur if ovarian cancer cells had already spread to the peritoneum before the surgery or if some ovarian tissue remains after surgery.
It is very important to have a cancer risk
assessment and counseling
before making this decision. These and other factors may be discussed:
It is not clear whether the following affect the risk of ovarian cancer:Diet
Studies of dietary
factors including various foods, teas, and nutrients
have not found a strong link to ovarian cancer.
Studies have not shown a link between drinking alcohol
and the risk of ovarian cancer.
Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Some studies found a very small increased risk of one rare type of ovarian cancer in women who were current smokers compared with women who never smoked.
Overall, studies in women using fertility drugs have not found clear evidence of an increased
risk of ovarian cancer. Risk of ovarian borderline malignant tumors
may be higher in women who take fertility drugs. The risk of invasive ovarian cancer may be higher in women who do not get pregnant
after taking fertility drugs.
Cancer prevention clinical trials are used to study ways
to prevent cancer.
Cancer prevention clinical trials
are used to study ways to
lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Some
cancer prevention trials are conducted with healthy people who
have not had cancer but who have an increased risk for cancer.
Other prevention trials are conducted with people who have had
cancer and are trying to prevent another cancer of the same type
or to lower their chance of developing a new type of cancer.
Other trials are done with healthy volunteers who are not known
to have any risk factors
The purpose of some cancer prevention clinical trials is to
find out whether actions people take can prevent cancer. These
may include eating fruits and vegetables, exercising, quitting
smoking, or taking certain medicines
New ways to prevent ovarian cancer are being studied in clinical
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country.
Information about clinical trials can be found in the Clinical Trials
section of the
Check NCI's list of cancer clinical trials
for ovarian cancer prevention trials
that are now accepting patients.
Changes to This Summary (11/26/2014)
The PDQ cancer
information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.
Editorial changes were made to this summary.
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National Cancer Institute: PDQÂ® Ovarian Cancer Prevention. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/ovarian/Patient. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>.
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