Cancer that starts in the ovaries is known as ovarian cancer. This is marked by the abnormal growth of cells in the ovaries as a result of a genetic mutation. These cells then begin multiplying rapidly. Since they live for much longer than normal cells, they turn into tumours. As the disease progresses, the mutated cells may spread from the ovaries to other organs. The cause of the genetic mutation is unknown. However, there are a number of factors that can increase a woman's risk of ovarian cancer.
Genetic mutations are the primary causes of ovarian cancer. A woman with a family history of ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, breast cancer or colorectal cancer has a high risk of ovarian cancer. This is because she may inherit mutated genes associated with these types of cancer from her parents. Some of the inherited genetic mutations that can cause ovarian cancer include BRCA1, BRCA2, MLH1 & 3, MSH 2 & 6, PTEN, TGFBR2, STK11, PMS 1 & 2 and MUTYH.
If you have suffered from breast cancer earlier, you may have a higher risk of ovarian cancer. Other conditions that may increase your risk include:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colon Cancer
- PTEN Tumor Hamartoma Syndrome
- Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome
- MUTYH-Associated Polyposis
Women who start menstruating before the age of 12 years have a higher risk of this type of cancer. Similarly, women who reach menopause after the age of 50 years also have a high risk. Having your first child after you reach the age of 30 years or not having children at all is also considered a risk factor. Taking fertility medication or hormonal replacement therapy may increase the risk of ovarian cancer but this is quite rare.
On the other hand, oral birth control pills, getting your tubes tied and breastfeeding can reduce the risk of this type of cancer.
Ethnicity and Age
Ovarian cancer is rarely seen amongst women who have not yet reached menopause. Most cases are diagnosed when a woman has crossed the age of 60 years.
When it comes to ethnicity, non-Hispanic white women are considered to have the highest risk of this cancer.
Obesity is one of the major risk factors associated with ovarian cancer. It has also been observed that women who are taller than 5 feet 8 inches have a higher risk of this type of cancer.
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