Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

Today, even in the case where the cause of a given disease remains elusive, researchers can compile data that gives us a very good idea of the risk factors for that disease. Spotting your own risk factors gives you some important ammunition. First of all, some risk factors can be modified or eliminated.

Brightest Chance

But even in the case where you can't do anything about a risk factor, forewarned is forearmed. If you know you are susceptible to a given disease, you will take the steps toward early identification of the condition, should it develop. This gives you the best and brightest chance of having successful treatment for many or even most medical conditions.

Though the overall risk for ovarian cancer stands at just 1.5%, having a number of risk factors for the disease increases your risk for this cancer exponentially. But by having regular exams, even if you do end up with ovarian cancer, the chances are good you'll have found it soon enough to nip it in the bud.

*Genetics—Once upon a time, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations were thought to be unique to breast cancer and so they were called the breast cancer genes. But a link has been found between these gene mutations and ovarian cancer. BRCA1 raises a woman's ovarian cancer risk by 35-70% while BRCA2 increases the risk to between 10-30%.

Of lesser significance is the genetic syndrome known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). Women who have this disease in their families are predisposed to ovarian, endometrial, stomach, and colon cancers.

Ashkenazi Women

*Ashkenazi Jewish women are the ethnic group with the highest risk for ovarian cancer.

*Family history—If family members had ovarian cancer, your risk rises by 10-15%. *Breast cancer—Breast cancer survivors have a higher risk for ovarian cancer.

*Age—The risk for ovarian cancer rises with age. Most ovarian cancer patients are postmenopausal and under the age of 80.

*Infertility—Infertile women have an increased risk for ovarian cancer.

*Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)—Taking estrogen/progestin supplements have been linked with ovarian cancer, though the risk is higher in women who took just estrogen, rather than the combined therapy, and used it for longer than five years.

*Obesity—Obese women have the higher risk for ovarian cancer and are susceptible to the most aggressive ovarian cancer tumors.

*Male hormones—Danazol, a treatment for endometriosis that contains the male hormone androgen has been linked to a heightened risk for ovarian cancer.