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Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

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The majority of people who develop ovarian cancer have no family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and no personal history of breast cancer. However, if you have any of the ovarian cancer risk factors listed below, talk to your doctor:

  • Genetic predisposition. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can cause ovarian cancer.
  • History. A personal or family history of breast, ovarian or colon cancer raises your risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Increasing age. The likelihood of developing ovarian cancer increases as you get older.
  • Infertility/No history of pregnancy. People who have never been pregnant are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than people who have been pregnant.
  • Having excess body fat. Excess body fat as measured by body mass index (BMI) increases your risk of ovarian cancer. Diet and nutrition may play a role in prevention.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Evidence suggests that using HRT after menopause may slightly increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Possible environmental factors. Certain substances, such as talcum powder, are being researched for links to ovarian cancer. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about any past exposures.

Assessing your ovarian cancer risk

Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center is a national leader in the field of breast and ovarian cancer genetics. We were the first medical center in the country to establish a breast and ovarian cancer risk evaluation program, and the Mariann and Robert MacDonald Cancer Risk Evaluation Center is nationally recognized. The center’s team of expert genetic counselors and gynecologic oncologists can provide the information, care and support you need to make the best decisions about your health.