The common risk factors of ovarian cancer are Reproductive factors and genetic factors.
Reproductive factors include:
- Early start of menstrual cycles
- Late start of menopause
Females who have had multiple pregnancies are at a lower risk of ovarian cancer.
Some protection against ovarian cancer can be offered by using oral contraceptive pills, undergoing tubal ligation (tubectomy), and breastfeeding.
An important role in the risk of developing ovarian cancer is played by genetic factors. Women who have first degree relatives with or have had ovarian cancer in the past have about two-fold increased risk of ovarian cancer. Development of ovarian cancer genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2 is a result of genetic mutation. But; the confirmed BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation ovarian cancer cases are only 10% in the present scenario. The lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer due to inheritance of BRCA1 gene mutation is up to 15-45% whereas that of inheritance of BRCA2 gene mutation is 10 to 20%.
Risk factors of ovarian cancer can be either controllable or uncontrollable.
Those risk factors that can be changed are termed Controllable risk factors. Example: Cutting down or stopping smoke that reduces the exposure to carcinogens.
Risk factors that cannot be controlled are called Uncontrollable factors. For example age, genetic history, or family history of cancer.
The various risk factors for ovarian cancer are:
When it comes to the risk of developing ovarian cancer; age plays an important role. With the increase in age; the risk of ovarian cancer also increases. Although; ovarian cancer can occur at any age; diagnosis of the disease in women below the age of 40 is quite rare.
The development of ovarian cancers is also associated with reproductive factors. Early onset of the menstrual cycle or late onset of menopause increases the risk of ovarian cancer. Infertility also increases risk Infertility also increases risk. The risk of developing ovarian cancer can be lowered in the following cases:
- Oral contraceptive pills
- Multiple pregnancies
An increased risk of developing ovarian cancer is also due to Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) as well as postmenopausal hormone therapy.
A quarter of ovarian cancers are caused due to genetic mutations. The genes that are involved in ovarian cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women with BRCA1 mutation are at higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. The lifetime risk in BRCA1 mutation patients is 35 to 46 %, and for BRCA2 mutation is 13 to 23 %.
A syndrome named Lynch syndrome is also associated with many cancers including colon cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, urogenital, and other intestinal cancers. The lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer in these patients is 3 to 14 %.
A vital role in developing ovarian cancer is played by family history. Usually, women with 1st-degree relatives who have ovarian cancer now or in the past; are at more than twofold increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapies are prescribed in women going through menopause. This helps in reducing the symptoms associated with menopause such as dryness, hot flushes, and night sweats. This therapy includes treatment with estrogen alone. Hormone replacement therapy is most commonly seen in women with a hysterectomy. Women without a hysterectomy are recommended to use a combination of progesterone and estrogen.
The risk of ovarian cancer increases due to:
- Current or past cigarette smoking increases the mucinous type of ovarian cancer.
How to reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer?
Even though there is no definite way to prevent ovarian cancer completely; the risk of developing the disease can be controlled or reduced by practicing the following methods.
Usage of contraceptives for five or more years lowers the risk of developing ovarian cancer by 20% in comparison with women who have never used oral contraceptives before.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Because ovulation is less frequent during pregnancy and Breastfeeding. Hence; women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding are at lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding for more than 12 months reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. Not just that; multiple pregnancies or a full-term pregnancy before the age of 26 also decreases the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes (For BRCA1 positive women)- Salpingo-oophorectomy:
A surgical procedure called prophylactic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy that includes removal of the ovaries and the fallopian tubes also reduces the risk of developing ovarian cancer. The surgery is best for women with a confirmed positive BRCA1 gene mutation.
Hysterectomy and tubal ligation
The risk of developing ovarian cancer can also be decreased by removing the uterus (Hysterectomy) without removing ovaries (Oophorectomy). In order to reduce further risk; a tubal ligation procedure (which is the tying of the fallopian tubes) can also be done.