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What Causes Ovarian Cancer: Know the Risks

Several factors are thought to increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer. If a woman has one or more of these factors, her likelihood of developing ovarian cancer may be higher. One key risk factor to consider is age, as most women who develop ovarian cancer are diagnosed after menopause once they’re over 55. But there have been cases of women in their 40s and 50s who have been diagnosed with this disease.

Another factor to consider is a family history of ovarian or breast cancer. It is recommended to check with a doctor about genetic counseling, genetic testing, and any other steps one can take to monitor or reduce the chances of developing ovarian cancer.

Women who inherit a mutation on one of two genes called breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2) may develop ovarian cancer. Women with the BRCA1 mutation have a 35 to 70 percent higher risk, while women with the BRCA2 mutation have a 10 to 30 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. To get tested for both BRCA mutations, one needs to check with an OB-GYN or a gynecologic oncologist.

Lynch syndrome, another genetic disorder, may be responsible for a higher risk of cancers of the digestive tract, gynecological tract, and other organs. Similarly, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome indicates a higher risk of polyps developing in the digestive tract and cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, pancreas, stomach, testicles, ovaries, lungs, and cervix.

Women who have been diagnosed with breast, colorectal, or endometrial cancer also have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

These Are Some Factors that May Lower the Risk of Ovarian Cancer

Women who have delivered at least one child, especially before age 30, have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. The more children a woman has the lower her risk. Women who breastfeed reduce their risk even further.

Women who have used oral contraceptives for at least three months are at a lower risk of ovarian cancer. The longer the contraceptives are taken, the lower her risk. The lowered risk factor continues for years, even after contraceptives are stopped.

Women who undergo a tubal ligation (tying the fallopian tubes) or a hysterectomy (removing the uterus) reduce their risk of developing ovarian cancer.