Does Breast Cancer Make Ovarian Cancer More Likely?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on February 29, 2024
2 min read

Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries and can spread to other parts of the body. Doctors aren't exactly sure what causes it, but there are several things -- called risk factors -- that can raise your chances of getting the disease. One of those is breast cancer.

If you have breast cancer, or if someone in your family had it, that can play a role in whether you develop ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer can run in families. If your mother, sister, or daughter has the disease, you have a greater chance of developing it, too. Likewise, if you have just one close relative with ovarian cancer, your chance of getting it increases by almost three times.

If you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, your chances of getting one of those cancers go up. A strong family history means:

  • More than one family member has had ovarian or breast cancer, or
  • Someone in your family has had both breast and ovarian cancer, or
  • More than one generation in your family has had ovarian or breast cancer

Your risk increases because these cancers can be caused by a change in certain genes - BRCA 1 AND BRCA 2 - that is passed on throughout a family. Genetic testing can tell if you have these genetic mutations. There are also genes that have not yet been identified but undoubtedly play a role in inherited breast cancers.

If you have already had breast cancer, you might have a greater chance of also developing ovarian cancer. Some of the same risk factors that can impact ovarian cancer can affect breast cancer. That might include the age you first started your period, and if and when you started menopause. Any pregnancies and fertility treatments could also make a difference.

The good news is that even with family risk factors like breast cancer, the chance of developing ovarian cancer is still small. It is rarer than breast cancer. Most women with a family or personal history of ovarian or breast cancer will never get the disease. 

Make sure to tell your doctor if you or a family member have a history of breast cancer. You can work together to prevent breast and ovarian cancer if you have an increased genetic risk.