We don’t know the exact causes of most ovarian cancers. However, we do know there are factors that may increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Getting older is the biggest risk factor for developing ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer can happen at any age, but it is usually in women who have been through menopause, with the average age of diagnosis being age 64.
These account for approximately 20% of ovarian cancers. Hereditary factors include:
- inheriting a faulty gene such as a mutation in BRCA1 or
- BRCA2 genes. Women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have
- a higher incidence of BRCA mutations than the general population
- having a strong family history of ovarian, breast or some other cancers (colorectal or endometrial).
other factors that may increase the risk of ovarian cancer include:
- having endometriosis, a previous breast cancer or diabetes
- use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (this applies to some ovarian cancer types)
- being overweight
- smoking, which may slightly increase the risk of developing
- mucinous ovarian cancer
- not having had children – women who have not had children are at a slightly higher risk.
Reducing your risk
There are also ways in which you can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer:
- surgical removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes
- having children
- using oral contraceptives.
However, many women having adopted protective measures may still develop ovarian cancer.
This page was last updated in January 2019.