Womens Health

Ovarian Cancer - Who Is At Risk?

While you can't always prevent a cancer, it is still important to know the various risk factors and to try to diminish your odds whenever possible. Ovarian cancer has a number of risk factors associated with it, some of which you can work to diminish.

Family History

As with any cancer or other health issue, family matters. You are more likely to develop ovarian cancer if you have a family history of this disease. A family history means that a mother, daughter or sister has or has had ovarian cancer. Similarly, if you have a family history of another type of female cancer, such as breast cancer, uterus cancer, colon cancer and others, then you may also be at a higher risk for ovarian cancer. You may decide to meet with a genetic counselor to discuss your family history and your risk. There are tests that can show the presence of a specific gene change in your body that might indicate cancer.


As you age, you become at higher risk for ovarian cancer. Most women who get this cancer are over 55. Half of all ovarian cancer diagnoses are with women over 63.


If you are obese, you have a higher rate of death from ovarian cancer. This should help you to start to eat right and to try to exercise regularly. While losing weight won't keep you from getting ovarian cancer, it can put you at less risk and can certainly help with your overall health.

Physical Background

It is very interesting to look at your risk factor as compared to your reproductive history. Studies have shown that women who have more menstrual cycles in their lifetime are at a higher risk for developing this cancer. Those who started to menstruate early (before the age of 12), those who never had children, those who had a first child after 30, and those who experienced menopause after the age of 50 were all seen to be at greater risk. High levels of estrogen in the body can also increase the risk of ovarian cancer. If, for instance, you used estrogen as a hormone replacement therapy after menopause, you may be at greater risk for developing ovarian cancer. If, however, you took birth control pills for an extended period of time over the years, you have a decreased risk for this cancer.

At the moment, only about 2% of women develop ovarian cancer. This means that each woman's lifetime risk for developing ovarian cancer is quite low. These risk factors help you to know if you are at a higher risk than the average woman. While some of these risk factors aren't things that you can control, others are. By eating right, exercising and watching your intake of estrogen you may be able to decrease your risk. Similarly, if you have a family history of this cancer or other female cancers, you should have routine check-ups more often and should be vigilant about protecting yourself as much as possible. Speak to your doctor about the steps that you can take to keep yourself healthy and to decrease your risk of developing ovarian cancer.

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