Ovarian Cancer Prevention (PDQ®): Prevention - Patient Information [NCI] - Ovarian Cancer Prevention
Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.
Avoiding cancer risk factors may help prevent certain cancers. Risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. Increasing protective factors such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.
Depending on your stage of life and risk for ovarian cancer, you should discuss with your doctor the pros and cons of using birth control pills. Low-dose birth control pills are considered protective. If you have completed your family, consider a tubal ligation, which has been reported to lower risk of ovarian cancer. Some studies suggest that women who take hormone replacement therapy after menopause may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
If you are at high risk for ovarian cancer, ask your...
A woman whose mother or sister had ovarian cancer has an increased risk of ovarian cancer. A woman with two or more relatives with ovarian cancer also has an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The risk of ovarian cancer is increased in women who have inherited certain changes in the following genes:
BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
Genes that are linked to hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC; Lynch syndrome).
Hormone replacement therapy
The use of estrogen -only hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause increases the risk of ovarian cancer. The longer estrogen replacement therapy is used, the greater the risk may be. It is not clear whether the risk of ovarian cancer is increased with the use of HRT that has both estrogen and progestin.
The use of oral contraceptives ("the pill") lowers ovarian cancer risk. The longer oral contraceptives are used, the lower the risk may be. The decrease in risk may last up to 25 years after a woman has stopped using oral contraceptives.
Taking oral contraceptives increases the risk of blood clots. This risk is higher in women who also smoke. There may be a slight increase in a woman's risk of breast cancer during the time she is taking oral contraceptives. This risk decreases over time.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding are linked to a decreased risk of ovarian cancer. Ovulation stops or occurs less often in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Some experts believe that women who ovulate less often have a decreased risk of ovarian cancer.
Bilateral tubal ligation or hysterectomy
The risk of ovarian cancer is decreased in women who have a bilateral tubal ligation (surgery to close both fallopian tubes) or a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus).
Some women who have a high risk of ovarian cancer may choose to have a prophylactic oophorectomy (surgery to remove both ovaries when there are no signs of cancer). This includes women who have inherited certain changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes or in the genes linked to hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC). (See the PDQ summary on Genetics of Breast and Ovarian Cancer for more information.)