There are a number of risk factors for ovarian cancer . In addition to having a family history of cancer (colon, uterine, pancreatic), approximately 5-10% of women with ovarian cancer have a family member who also has the disease. The risk increases if: one first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer especially before the age of 50 or before menopause; two or more first-degree relatives diagnosed with ovarian cancer; or a combination of first- and second-degree relatives diagnosed with ovarian cancer. These risks apply to the woman’s paternal or maternal relatives. Although breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2) were first identified for their role in the development of breast cancer, these genes have also been linked to ovarian cancer. For example, women with BRCA1 mutations have a lifetime risk of 35-50% of developing ovarian cancer and more likely to occur before the age of 50, while women with BRCA2 mutations have a lifetime risk of 10-30% and is more likely to occur after the age of 60.
Other ovarian cancer associations include: a personal history of breast cancer ; women who began menstruating at a young age and/or reached menopause relatively late ; and women who have never been pregnant. However, researchers are unclear if this is due to hormones or a protective effect of pregnancy or damage to the epithelial cells of the ovary with each ovulation . Other potential risk factors include smoking and a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30.
Women who have taken oral contraceptives compared to women who have used other forms of contraception and women who have had many children are at a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer . Tubal ligation may decrease ovarian cancer risk [5,6]. Oral contraceptives are recommended to women who are BRCA 1 or 2 carriers due to the decreased number of ovulations.