What Factors Affect the Risk of Ovarian Cancer?
A number of different factors can contribute to the risk of ovarian cancer. One factor is a woman's reproductive history, including how long she menstruated and how many children she had. Development of this cancer is also affected by various lifestyle choices. The presence of different genetic mutations can alter the lifetime chance of getting ovarian cancer. Taking different hormonal medications can also affect a woman's risk.
Various aspects of a woman's reproductive history affect her risk of ovarian cancer. An early onset of menstrual cycles, as well as a late onset of menopause, can both increase the likelihood of cancer. Never being pregnant and never having children also mean a higher chance of developing this cancer. Infertility is another condition that can increase the likelihood of the disease. In contrast, having many children, breastfeeding, and getting a hysterectomy all protect against the development of this cancer.
Certain controllable lifestyle choices can affect the risk of ovarian cancer. Smoking increases the chance of getting this malignancy. Historically, women who used talc powder on their external genital regions had higher rates of this cancer. It is thought that in the past talc powder was tainted with asbestos, which is a known carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent. Having a high body mass index (BMI) can increase the risk for getting this disease, while regular exercise can decrease it.
A variety of genetic factors also affect the risk of ovarian cancer. In general, people who have family members with ovarian cancer are more likely to develop this condition as well. Certain specific genetic mutations and syndromes have been associated with ovarian cancer. For example, patients with breast cancer gene 1 or 2 (BRCA1 or BRCA2) gene mutations have an increased risk for ovarian cancer as well as breast cancer. Patients with Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), have an increased risk for developing cancers of the colon, uterus, and ovaries.
Different hormonal medications can also affect the risk of ovarian cancer. Taking combination oral contraceptive pills is generally considered to decrease the chances of developing this disease later in life. In fact, some doctors recommend that patients at high risk for ovarian cancers could take these contraceptive pills as a preventative measure. Another medication that might affect the risk of ovarian cancer is hormonal replacement therapy (HRT), which is given to treat the symptoms of menopause. Some studies have shown an increased likelihood of developing this cancer in patients who took HRT; however, this remains a controversial topic.
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