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Ovarian Cancer Prevention (PDQ®): Prevention - Patient Information [NCI] - Ovarian Cancer Prevention

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The following are protective factors for ovarian cancer:

Oral contraceptives

Taking oral contraceptives ("the pill") lowers the risk of ovarian cancer. The longer oral contraceptives are used, the lower the risk may be. The decrease in risk may last up to 30 years after a woman has stopped taking oral contraceptives.

Taking oral contraceptives increases the risk of blood clots. This risk is higher in women who also smoke.

Tubal ligation

The risk of ovarian cancer is decreased in women who have a tubal ligation (surgery to close both fallopian tubes).

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is linked to a decreased risk of ovarian cancer. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the lower her risk of ovarian cancer.

Risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy

Some women who have a high risk of ovarian cancer may choose to have a risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy (surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries when there are no signs of cancer). This includes women who have inherited certain changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes or have an inherited syndrome. (See the Risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy section in the PDQ health professional summary on Genetics of Breast and Ovarian Cancer for more information.)

It is very important to have a cancer risk assessment and counseling before making this decision. These and other factors may be discussed:

  • Infertility.
  • Early menopause: The drop in estrogen levels caused by removing the ovaries can cause early menopause. Symptoms of menopause include the following:
    • Hot flashes.
    • Night sweats.
    • Trouble sleeping.
    • Mood changes.
    • Decreased sex drive.
    • Heart disease.
    • Vaginal dryness.
    • Frequent urination.
    • Osteoporosis (decreased bone density).
    These symptoms may not be the same in all women. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be used to lessen these symptoms.
  • Risk of ovarian cancer in the peritoneum: Women who have had a risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy continue to have a small risk of ovarian cancer in the peritoneum (thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen). This may occur if ovarian cancer cells had already spread to the peritoneum before the surgery or if some ovarian tissue remains after surgery.

It is not clear whether the following affect the risk of ovarian cancer:

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