What causes Ovarian Cancer?

To date the causes of Ovarian Cancer are unknown, however what we do know is that there are some common risk factors:-

Age – The risk of Ovarian Cancer increases with age and is more prevalent in women after the age of 50 who are post menopausal and continues to increase with age.

Genetic factors – In some 15 – 20% of cases of Ovarian Cancer the patient has a genetic mutation, BRCA1 or BRCA2 are the most common, that significantly increases the risk of developing Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Family history – Having a first degree relative who has a history of Ovarian Cancer, Breast Cancer, Bowel Cancer or Uterine Cancer increases risk, along with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.

Endometriosis – Whilst until recently this chronic disease was considered to be benign, studies over the last 5 years have shown an increased risk of patients with Endometriosis developing Epithelial Ovarian Cancer (EOC).

Reproductive history – women who have not had children or who have had children after the age of 35 may be at slightly higher risk.

Life lifestyle – Smoking and being overweight have been linked to increased risk of some types of Ovarian Cancer.

Hormonal factors – The early onset of puberty or the late onset of menopause may increase the risk of Ovarian Cancer. It has also been suggested that hormone therapy for treatment of menopausal symptoms may increase risk however, the evidence is not clear on this.

Some factors that may reduce the risk of Ovarian Cancer include. Having children before the age of 35, using the oral contraceptive pill; breastfeeding; and having your fallopian tubes tied (tubal ligation) or removed.

Author: Madelyn Duckmanton

Madelyn is the Chair of the Letitia Linke research foundation. After losing her daughter, Letitia Linke, to Ovarian Cancer, she has continued Letitia’s work to raise awareness of Ovarian Cancer and generate funds to support research into an early detection test.