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 faulty genes, known as the BRCA genes, inherited from either parent. Close relatives  of women with ovarian cancer may be slightly more likely to develop it themselves.

If you have a family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer or other cancers, you may be referred to a cancer geneticist. If increased risk is confirmed there may be the possibility of the risk-reducing surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes although this does not eliminate all risk. 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 83 per cent of cases occurring in the over 50s. 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. It is more common in women who have never had a pregnancy

Research suggests certain activities can increase risk such as:

Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

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

How can I reduce the risk?

Be aware of your family’s health history

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

Staying a healthy weight


Last review April 2018
Date of next review April 2020

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