Risk factors

Who is at risk of ovarian cancer?

Most causes of ovarian cancer occur for unknown reasons, but about 10 per cent of ovarian cancers are thought to be caused by a faulty gene inherited from either parent. Researchers have also found that close relatives of women with ovarian cancer are slightly more likely to develop it themselves.

If you have a family history you may be referred to a cancer geneticist. If increased risk is confirmed there may be the possibility of the prophylactic removal of your ovaries and tubes although this isn’t 100 per cent effective. To learn more about genetics and ovarian cancer please click here.

Am I at risk?

The incidence of the disease is largely confined to post menopausal women with 90 per cent of cases occuring in the over 45s. It is more than twice as common in women who have never had children. There are some genetic links in a very small number of women, around 10 per cent of cases. It may be more likely in women who have had endometriosis.

How can I reduce the risk?

Research carried out has shown that certain lifestyle choices can lower the risk of ovarian cancer:

The combined oral contraceptive pill is protective and can halve the risk in women who have used it for three to five years whereas there can be protection of up to 80 per cent in long term users.

Breast feeding.

There are some studies that suggest certain activities can increase risk, however there is considerable debate on the subject and some conflicting findings:

Dairy consumption

Taking HRT

Talcum powder (Ovacome produces a factsheet that covers the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer in more detail; click here to download (pdf).

Last review April 2016
Date of next review April 2018

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