Reducing Ovarian Cancer Risk
There are some factors that reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer. A health care professional can help a woman identify ways to reduce her risk as well as decide if consultation with a genetic counselor is appropriate.
Oral Contraceptive Use
The use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) decreases the risk of developing ovarian cancer, especially when used for several years. Women who use oral contraceptives for five or more years have about a 50 percent lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who have never used oral contraceptives.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Pregnancy and breastfeeding are linked with a reduced risk of ovarian cancer, likely because women ovulate less frequently when pregnant or breastfeeding. Multiple pregnancies or having first full-term pregnancy before the age of 26 decreases risk.
Removal of the Ovaries and Fallopian Tubes
Women can greatly reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by removing their ovaries and fallopian tubes, a procedure known as prophylactic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Primary peritoneal cancer, which is microscopically almost identical to ovarian cancer, can still occur but is infrequent. One recent study suggests that women with BRCA1 mutations gain the most benefit by removing their ovaries before age 35.
There are risks associated with removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes; women should speak to their doctors about whether this procedure is appropriate for them.
Having a hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus while leaving the ovaries, may decrease the risk of ovarian cancer by 33 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Having fallopian tubes tied (tubal ligation) may reduce risk by up to 67 percent, the American Cancer Society says, though researchers aren’t sure why this is the case.