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Ovarian Cancer - Causes And Treatments

Updated on July 1, 2017

Causes of Ovarian Cancer

Although every woman can get ovarian cancer and many have to hear the devastating diagnosis, not much is known about ovarian cancer and what causes it. There are some rarer forms of ovarian cancers that even less is known about. There are many theories around causes. However, many of the theories are just that, theories and have not been proven to be a 100% cause of ovarian cancer. There are several risk factors that scientist have been able to pinpoint, which are explained below. Many of the theories of what causes ovarian cancer stem from the risk factors. However, scientists are still trying to find out why these factors cause ovarian cancer.

Some researchers believe that pregnancy or birth control lowers a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer because these two things reduce the number of eggs that are released from the ovary. Others believe that the male hormone androgens can cause ovarian cancer. Another theory is some substances that cause cancer can enter the body through the vagina and travel through the uterus and fallopian tubes to reach the ovaries. If this theory has any trueness to it then that would explain why some researchers believe that a woman who has had their uterus removed have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

Even though the causes of ovarian cancer are not completely understood yet, much is known about genes you can inherit from you parents and why these can increase your risk of ovarian cancer. There is a lot of information on these genes that can be found on the internet.

Ovary riddled with cancer!
Ovary riddled with cancer!

Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer

Risk factors are not necessarily the cause of a disease, instead a risk factor is something that changes your chance of getting a disease. For example, a risk factor of AIDS would be having unprotected sex but this does not mean that you will automatically get AIDS if you have unprotected sex. A risk factor just increases your chances. There are several risk factors that can increase a woman’s chance of getting ovarian cancer. These risk factors only apply to epithelial ovarian cancer, they do not apply to less common types of ovarian cancer such as stromal and germ cell tumors. It is almost impossible for researchers to know to what extent a risk factor increases your odds of having or getting ovarian cancer and in many cases of ovarian cancer, there were few risk factors identified.

What are the Risk Factors?



  • Studies have shows that obesity and diets that are high in meats and animal fat are both risk factors of ovarian cancer.
  • The American Cancer Society has found that there was a 50% increase of fatalities due to ovarian cancer in the heaviest women studied.


  • Most cases of ovarian cancer occur in women who have gone through menopause.
  • Ovarian cancer is rarely found in women younger then 40
  • Over 50% of ovarian cancers are found in women older then 65.

Reproductive History

  • Never having children or having children over the age of 30 is a risk factor.
  • Your chance of getting ovarian cancer goes down with each child you have.
  • Breast feeding can lower your risk even more.

Family History

  • Ovarian cancer can be genetic.
  • You have a higher risk if you mother, sister or daughter has had ovarian cancer.
  • The more relatives you have who have had ovarian cancer, the higher your risk.
  • Having a family member with breast cancer can also increase your risk of ovarian cancer. Also if you have had breast cancer yourself.

Fertility Drugs

  • Some fertility drugs can increase your chance of developing ovarian tumors.
  • The risk is higher if you did not become pregnant while on the drug.
  • Infertile women are at higher risk.
  • Birth control can lower your risk.

Hormone Therapy

  • Using estrogens after menopause can increase your chance of ovarian cancer.
  • May be more at risk if using both estrogen and progesterone but nothing has been proven on this yet.

Talcum Powder

  • There is a theory that women who use talcum powder and applied directly to the genital area are at higher risk.
  • Some sanitary napkins may also put you at higher risk.
  • This may be related to asbestos in the powder which is by law prohibited in any powders made now and has been for 20 years.

Smoking and Alcohol

  • Does not increase your risk in most ovarian cancers however in some rarer ovarian cancers it have been found to increase your risk.

There are other risk factors that are being studied however have not yet been linked directly to ovarian cancer.

Preventing Ovarian Cancer

Unfortunately, there is no solid prevention for ovarian cancer. Lowering your risk factors can help in some cases of ovarian cancers and not others. Even though there is no way to completely prevent ovarian cancer there are some things you can do to help greatly in the fight against ovarian cancer.

Birthcontrol Pills

Studies have shows a 50% decrese of ovarian cancer in women who have taken Birth control pills for more then 5 years.

Gynecologic surgery

Woman that have had there uterus removed have a lower chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This could be because of the thorey that thinngs that could possibly cause cancer may be entering the body through the vagina and traveling through the uterus to the ovaries. Without a path to the ovaries it would not be able to contaminate them.

Genetic counseling

This can help you discover if you are at risk of ovarian cancer and is worth doing if you have history of ovarian cancer in your family.


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