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Ovarian Cancer Causes and Risk Factors

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries. Ovaries are the woman reproductive system that responsible for producing eggs (ova) and make female hormones – estrogen and progesterone. One ovary is located on each side of the uterus in the pelvis.

ovarian cancer causes and risk factors

Types of Ovarian Tumors

There are many types of tumors can start growing in the ovaries. Some are malignant (cancerous), which can spread to other parts of body, but most ovarian tumors are benign (non-cancerous) and can be treated successfully by removing either the ovary or the part of the ovary that contains the tumor.

In general, ovarian tumors can be categorized into three main types, according to the kind of cells the tumor started:

  • Epithelial tumors start from the cells that cover the ovary. It is the most common type of ovarian tumor.
  • Germ cell tumors start from the cells that produce the eggs within the ovaries.
  • Sex cord stromal tumors start from connective tissue cells that hold the ovaries in place and produce female hormones.

Causes and Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

The exact causes of ovarian cancer are unknown, but researchers believe there are certain risk factors that increase your chances of getting ovarian cancer, including age, family history, diet, obesity, and medication.

Some risk factors such as age and a person’s family history can’t be controlled. While others, such as diet, obesity can be changed:

  • Age
    The risk of getting ovarian cancer increases with age. Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed in women over the age of 50, with the highest risk in women over 60.
  • Family history
    Women who have family members with ovarian cancer have an increased risk of the disease. Also, women with a family history of cancer of the breast, uterus, colon, or rectum may also have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Obesity
    Many studies have confirmed that obesity may increases the risk of ovarian cancer, possibly because obesity leads to high levels of circulating hormones, which cause excessive growth of the uterine lining. A study from the American Cancer Society found a higher rate of death from ovarian cancer in obese women.
  • Diet
    Some studies have shown that women who ate a diet high in vegetables had a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer.The American Cancer Society recommends eating a variety of healthful foods, with an emphasis on plant sources. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, as well as several servings of whole grain foods from plant sources such as beans, breads, cereals, rice, or pasta.
  • Childbearing
    Women who have had children have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than those with no children. The more children a woman has, the less likely she is to develop ovarian cancer.
  • Hormone replacement therapy
    Some studies have suggested that women who take hormone replacement therapy after menopause may have a slightly increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Fertility drugs
    Some studies found that using the fertility drug clomiphene citrate (Clomid) for longer than one year may increase the risk for developing ovarian cancer. If you are taking fertility drugs, you should discuss the potential risks with your doctor. However, women who are infertile may be at higher risk compared to fertile women, even if they do not use fertility drugs. More research is needed to clarify these relationships.

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