Reducing the Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer

Reducing the Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer

By: James Bosscher, M.D.Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 11.44.52 AM

Ovarian Cancer is the second most common gynecologic malignancy and the most common cause of gynecologic cancer death. A woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 70, and about half of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 years or older. But, if this type of cancer is discovered early it can be cured.

There are many risk factors for ovarian cancer. A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. A woman’s risk for ovarian cancer rises with age, and also rises with obesity. Being obese means having a body mass index greater than 30. Also, women who have never given birth have a slightly higher risk for ovarian cancer. The use of estrogen replacement therapy is also a risk factor. Women who have used menopausal estrogen replacement therapy (taking estrogen alone, without progesterone) for more than 10 years may have a slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer.

A personal history of breast, uterine, rectum, or colon cancer also puts you at a higher risk for ovarian cancer. If you have a family history of breast, ovarian, endometrial, or colon cancer, or genetic cancer syndromes such as Lynch syndrome, your family may have certain genetic mutations (such as BRCA genes) that increase the risk for ovarian cancer.

Research has shown that certain factors may reduce a woman’s risk of developing ovarian and fallopian tube cancer:

Taking birth control pills - Women who took oral contraceptives for 5 years have a 20 percent reduction in ovarian cancer risks and if taken for 15 years the risks are reduced by 50 percent. The decrease in risk may last for 30 years after a woman stops taking the pills.
Breastfeeding The longer a woman breastfeeds, the lower her risk of ovarian and fallopian tube cancer.
Pregnancy – The more full-term pregnancies a woman has had, the lower her risk of ovarian and fallopian tube cancer.
Surgical procedures - Women who have had a hysterectomy or a tubal ligation may have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and, sometimes, the cervix. Tubal ligation is having the fallopian tubes “tied” or closed surgically to prevent pregnancy. Doctors recommend a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, which is the removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes, for women with a high risk of ovarian and fallopian tube cancer. For women with high-risk genetic mutations such as BRCA1, BRCA2, the genes related to Lynch Syndrome, and others, having the ovaries and fallopian tubes removed after childbearing is sometimes done to prevent breast and ovarian cancers. This can reduce ovarian cancer risk by 70 to 96 percent.

It is very important for women considering preventive surgery to talk with their doctors and genetic counselors, in order to understand the risks and side effects of the surgery in the context of their personal risks of developing ovarian cancer.

Board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist and Fellowship Trained Gynecologic Oncologist James Bosscher, M.D., is part of the Meridian Medical Group. Dr. Bosscher has extensive experience in diagnosing and treating gynecologic cancers and performing complex surgeries. He has an office located at 516 Lawrie St., in Suite 1, Raritan Bay Medical Center – Perth Amboy, a member of the Hackensack Meridian Health family. To make an appointment, call 732-897-7944.

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