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Am I At Risk For Ovarian Cancer?

Mother and teen daughter sitting at a picnic table
Most cases of ovarian cancer occur at random, but a woman may be at greater risk if her mother, sister or daughter has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

There is really no way to know for sure if you're going to get ovarian cancer. Still, certain factors can make you more likely to get it than another woman. These are called risk factors. However, just because you have one or more risk factors doesn't necessarily mean you will get ovarian cancer. In fact, you can have all the risk factors and still not get ovarian cancer, or you can have no known risk factors and get it.

If you agree with any of the following bolded statements, you may be at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Some risk factors are out of your control, such as your age or family history. Others -- like your weight or taking hormones -- are factors you can control.

My mother or sister had ovarian, breast, or colon cancer.

A mother or sister is considered a first-degree relative. If you have two or more first-degree relatives who have had ovarian cancer, this suggests that heredity may be a cause. If you have a family history of breast, ovarian, endometrial, or colon cancer, or genetic cancer syndromes such as Lynch syndrome, your family may have certain genetic mutations (such as BRCA genes)  that increase the risk for ovarian cancer. These types of ovarian cancer account for about 10% of ovarian cancer cases.

I have had breast or colon cancer.

A personal history of breast, uterine, rectum, or colon cancer puts you at increased risk for ovarian cancer.

Cancers that indicate an increased risk secondary to Lynch syndrome include colon, uterin, ovarian, and certain genitourinary and upper gastrointestinal cancers.

Mutations in the BRCA 1 or 2 genes place a woman at a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

I am a woman older than age 60.

The older you are, the greater your risk for getting ovarian cancer. A woman's risk for ovarian cancer rises with age and peaks during her 70s.

I've never had children.

Women who have never borne children are at slightly increased risk for ovarian cancer.

I am obese.

Being obese means having a body mass index greater than 30. (Use this tool to calculate your body mass index.) Obesity increases risk for ovarian cancer. The more excess weight you have, the more your risk is increased.

I used talcum powder.

This is a controversial subject. Some studies show a relationship between ovarian cancer and use of talcum powder on the genital area. This may be because this powder once contained asbestos. For more than 20 years, the law has required that these powders be free of asbestos.

I have taken estrogen replacement therapy for many years.

If you've used menopausal estrogen replacement therapy (taking estrogen alone, without progesterone) for more than 10 years, you may have a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer.

I have used fertility drugs.

If you've used fertility drugs, you may be at increased risk for ovarian cancer. Research studies have produced conflicting results.

I have endometriosis.

If you have endometriosis, you may be at increased risk for ovarian cancer.

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Akin, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith, RN, MSN, FNP, CCRC
Last Review Date: 6/30/2014
© 2013 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.