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What Increases Your Risk

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. The main risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

  • Having a family history of ovarian cancer. Having a mother, sister, or daughter who has had ovarian cancer will raise your risk. And if you have two close relatives with cancer, you will have a higher risk.
  • Inheriting gene changes. A small number of women with a family history of cancer have inherited gene changes, such as the BRCA gene changes. Having certain gene changes can put a woman at the highest riskslideshow.gif for ovarian cancer.

But most women who get ovarian cancer do not have these risk factors.

Ovarian cancer most often affects postmenopausal women. You may also be more likely to get this cancer if:

  • You never had a baby.
  • You started your menstrual cycles before age 12 and went through menopause after age 50.
  • You are unable to become pregnant.
  • You have used hormone therapy for menopause symptoms.

Some things that lower a woman's risk for ovarian cancer include:

  • Taking birth control pills (oral contraceptives). But this may slightly increase the risk for breast cancer and other health problems.
  • Having babies and breast-feeding.
  • Having both tubes tied (tubal ligation) or having a hysterectomy. But you will not be able to become pregnant after having either of these surgeries.

If you have a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer, you may want to talk with your doctor or a genetic counselor about having a blood test to look for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene changes.

Breast Cancer Risk: Should I Have a BRCA Gene Test?

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 28, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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