Ovarian cancer occurs when the cells in the ovaries start to multiply uncontrollably. According to the American Cancer Society, this is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths among women. The organization estimates that, overall, women stand a 1 in 75 chance of developing the disease at some point in their lives, with a 1 percent chance of it becoming the cause of their death. Despite all the advances in medical research the exact causes of this disease remain unclear. Here are some of the possibilities researchers are considering.
Research shows a clear genetic element that increases the risk of this disease in certain women. A look at the statistics reveals that a woman with a mother or sister who had this disease faces significantly greater risks than those who lack this family history. In some cases, a faulty gene transmits the disease. However, this only appears to be relevant in about 10 percent of cases. Researchers estimate that as many as 15 percent of ovarian cancer cases are linked to defective genes.
The fact that the majority of women who develop this disease are over the age of 50 might indicate a connection with the aging process. The vast majority of cases occur after a woman has gone through menopause. In the United States, well over half of the women diagnosed with this illness are over the age of 63. However, in this respect, ovarian cancer is no different from other forms of cancer.
Research shows that this is yet another health area where it pays to lose weight. There is evidence that the incidence of the disease increases in overweight women. The exact connection between weight and ovarian cancer still needs further research, but the lesson is clear. Losing weight where necessary and keeping weight down reduce the risk of getting this disease. At the same time, it brings many other health benefits by lowering the risk of heart disease and other serious illnesses.
The message that smoking is bad for the health has now reached a broad audience. In western countries, the percentage of people who smoke seems to be declining. Where at one time, a woman smoking was a common sight, it is becoming rarer. This decrease is also good news as far as the risks of ovarian cancer are concerned. The medical evidence shows that women who smoke are more likely to develop the disease than non-smokers. Of course, smoking also increases their risk of other kinds of cancer, so this finding is not so surprising.
Most people see talcum powder as a very useful item to keep in the bathroom, and it is typically harmless. However, more recent research indicates that a woman who often uses talcum powder between her legs might increase her risk of developing ovarian cancer. It is important to note, though, that the evidence remains controversial, and even if the additional risk is proven, it is slight. It may not be worth giving up the benefits of talcum powder because of this remote and not completely proven health risk.
Comparable to the scare over talcum powder, researchers also talk a lot about hormone replacement therapy. Women who have undergone this type of treatment may face a higher ovarian cancer risk. Some research suggests that this therapy does increase risks, but other research indicates that it has no effect. Overall, it appears that it might raise the risk slightly during treatment. However, as soon as the woman ceases the therapy, the extra risk disappears.
Medical research shows that a female condition called endometriosis increases the risk of ovarian cancer. This condition causes a mutation where the cells that normally line the womb could develop in the ovaries. When a woman with endometriosis has her period, the cells bleed, but there is no easy way for that blood to exit the body. She then experiences pain in the pelvic area and is more likely than other women to contract ovarian cancer.
One of the most disturbing possible connections is the one that some researchers suspect could exist between fertility treatments and ovarian cancer. Research in earlier years established a possible connection between certain drugs used in fertility treatments and ovarian cancer. The research suggested that these drugs increased the risks rather than directly led to the development of this disease. However, more recent research challenges this contention. Until the results of additional studies are known, the exact connection remains a matter for speculation. On a more positive note, it has been proven that pregnancy lowers the risk of ovarian cancer.
Many women want to appear taller than they actually are and dress in a way that gives that impression. Women who are on the shorter side will be pleased to know that their lack of height apparently reduces their risk of ovarian cancer. Why taller women are more at risk is one of the many hard-to-understand aspects of this illness. However, the statistics show a clear relationship between height and ovarian cancer risk.
Another area of great interest to researchers is how diet might affect ovarian cancer risk. Based on research findings currently available, it is hard to come to any definitive conclusions. It seems that changes in diet, like reducing or cutting out animal fats, might lower the risk of ovarian cancer. However, without more extensive research this remains an open question. Researchers hope to discover possible dietary changes that could reduce the risk of this disease, so these studies are almost certain to continue in the future.
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