Risk Factors

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

Because there is not a widely accepted, reliable screening test for the detection of ovarian cancer, it is critically important that women know and are familiar with the risk factors that are associated with ovarian cancer.

Family history of ovarian cancer:  The highest risk factor for ovarian cancer is a family history where one or more family members (your mother, sister, or daughter) has (or has had) ovarian cancer. 

Postmenopausal:  Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause. Half of all ovarian cancers are found in women over the age of 63.

Age:  The risk of developing ovarian cancer gets higher with age. Ovarian cancer is rare in women younger than 40.

Breast cancer, or colorectal cancer:  A family history of some other types of cancer caused by an inherited mutation (change) in certain genes can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. For example, mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the risk of breast cancer as well as ovarian cancer.  So, having a family member with these types of genetic breast cancer may increase your risk of ovarian cancer. Another set of genes increase the risk of colon cancer, so women who have colon cancer in their families may have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Many cases of familial epithelial ovarian cancer are caused by inherited gene mutations that can be identified by genetic testing.

Personal history of breast cancer:  If you have had breast cancer, you may also have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. There are several reasons for this. Some of the reproductive risk factors for ovarian cancer may also affect breast cancer risk. The risk of ovarian cancer after breast cancer is highest in those women with a family history of breast cancer. A strong family history of breast cancer may be caused by an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. These mutations can also cause ovarian cancer.

Obesity:  Various studies have looked at the relationship of obesity and ovarian cancer. Overall, it seems that obese women (those with a body mass index of at least 30) have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Fertility drugs:  In some studies, researchers have found that using the fertility drug clomiphene citrate (Clomid®) for longer than one year may increase the risk for developing ovarian tumors. The risk seemed to be highest in women who did not get pregnant while on this drug.

Androgens:  Women who took androgens were found to have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Estrogen therapy and hormone therapy:  Some recent studies suggest women using estrogens after menopause have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Talcum powder:  It has been suggested that talcum powder applied directly to the genital area or on sanitary napkins may be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to the ovaries. In the past, talcum powder was sometimes contaminated with asbestos, a known cancer-causing mineral. This may explain the association with ovarian cancer in some studies. Body and face powder products have been required by law for more than 20 years to be asbestos-free. However, proving the safety of these newer products will require follow-up studies of women who have used them for many years. There is no evidence at present linking cornstarch powders with any female cancers.

Smoking and alcohol use:  These do not increase the risk for most ovarian cancers, but some studies have found they increase the risk for the mucinous type of ovarian cancer.

Past Events

Wine, Beer & Scotch Tasting • Live Jazz • Gourmet Food • Raffle With Great Prizes

06-Nov-2015 - 06-Nov-2015

WineHopsScotch!, the annual fund raising event benefitting the Julie W. Schaffner Ovarian Cancer Fund, was held Friday, November 6, 2015 at the Michigan Shores Club, Wilmette, Ill. The following are just a few of the highlights our do.. Read More »

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