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Women's Health

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Hysterectomy: Spare Ovaries, Boost Health?

Ovary Removal Decreases Ovarian Cancer Risk but Increases Risk of Heart Disease and Death, Study Says

Ovary Removal or Not? Study Results

After 24 years of follow up, the researchers found some health risks increased among those who had their ovaries removed compared to those who did not. Among them:

  • The risk of death from any cause increased 12%.
  • The risk of heart disease -- sometimes fatal -- increased by 17%. Put another way, for every 130 women who have both ovaries removed during hysterectomy, one extra death from heart disease will occur that is directly attributed to the ovary removal.
  • Lung cancer risk increased 26%, a finding the researchers can't explain.

As expected, the risks of ovarian and breast cancer declined in those who had ovary removal. Breast cancer risk declined by 25%, ovarian cancer totally, Parker says.

Among the more than 13,000 women who kept their ovaries, 99 got ovarian cancer and 34 died.

Ovary Removal or Not? Perspective

"Ovarian cancer is a terrible disease and we still don't know how to find it early, cure it," Parker says. "But compared to heart disease, it is a rare cause of death."

For years, he says, doctors have talked about the value of routine ovary removal during a hysterectomy to reduce ovarian cancer risk. "Now that is overshadowed by all these other risks that are much more common and much more likely to kill you."

Among women in the U.S., ovarian cancer kills 14,700 women a year, but heart disease kills nearly 327,000 women and stroke, nearly 87,000, the authors note.

"What our study shows is taking out a woman's ovaries during hysterectomy isn't always the best option and that women need to be sure they discuss the risks and benefits about leaving their ovaries or taking out their ovaries with the doctor," Parker says.

His latest study confirms the findings of his study published in 2005, in which he and colleagues did a computer model type of study, feeding the results of several different studies into the computer and finding survival benefits with keeping the ovaries for women younger than age 65 at the time of surgery.

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