A number of things can affect your risk of developing ovarian cancer. All women in the UK have a 1 in 52 chance of developing ovarian cancer so ovarian cancer is rare. A number of things can increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer:
Your family history
- Ovarian or breast cancer is in your family
If two or more relatives from the same side of your family have had ovarian cancer under the age of 50 years, or there have been more than one case of ovarian and breast cancer in your family you may have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer yourself.
This is because you might have inherited a faulty gene known as the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation that creates a greater chance, 35-60%, of developing ovarian cancer.
You can visit our 'BRCA hub' for all the information, advice and support you need, whether you have ovarian cancer and want to know more, have recently found out you have a BRCA1/2 gene mutation or are worried you might be at risk. You will also find our online BRCA Risk Tool to assess whether your family history puts you at risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Ovarian, womb, colon, bowel or stomach cancer are in your family
Lynch syndrome can also slightly increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer. It is a genetic condition that can run in families, also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
A female carrier with Lynch Syndrome has an up to 10% chance of developing ovarian cancer in her lifetime, and also an increased risk of bowel, womb, stomach, pancreatic, biliary and bladder cancers.
Lynch Syndrome is the result of the genes that repair and alter our DNA being mutated. Mutation of these genes means that they are unable to protect DNA, leading to an increased risk of cancer.
Your risk of developing ovarian cancer increases as you get older and most ovarian cancer cases occur in women over the age of 50 years. However, some types of ovarian cancer do appear in much younger women.
Other risk factors
In addition to age and family history, the following may slightly increase your risk of ovarian cancer:
- Being obese
- A long menstrual history - which can result from one or more of the following:
- Starting your period before 12
- Going through the menopause after 55
- Having your first child after 30
- Not having any children
- Not breast feeding
- Endometriosis (a condition of the womb)
- Using oestrogen-only hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Smoking, which may increase your risk of developing mucinous ovarian cancer