Ovarian Cancer Epidemiology: An Insight into the Risk Factors and Prevention

Ovarian cancer is one of the most devastating forms of cancer. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), in 2020, an estimated 21,750 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer in the US, and 13,940 women will die from it. The global incidence and mortality rates of ovarian cancer are also high. In this article, we will discuss the epidemiology of ovarian cancer, its risk factors and prevention.

Epidemiology of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer affects women of all ages, but it is most commonly diagnosed in women over 50. The incidence of ovarian cancer varies widely between countries. For example, the incidence rate in the United States is higher than in some European countries, but lower than in some Asian countries.

Ovarian cancer has a lower 5-year survival rate compared to other types of cancer, with only 49% of women surviving beyond 5 years after diagnosis. This is partly due to the lack of effective screening tests for early detection and the fact that symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and can be mistaken for other conditions.

Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is not known. However, several risk factors have been identified:

1. Age: The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age, with most cases occurring in women over the age of 50.

2. Family history: Women with a family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer or both have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

3. Genetic mutations: Some genetic mutations, such as those in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

4. Reproductive history: Women who have never had children or who had their first child after the age of 35 have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.

5. Hormone replacement therapy: Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

6. Endometriosis: Women with endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside it, have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Prevention of Ovarian Cancer

There is no sure way to prevent ovarian cancer. However, there are some steps that women can take to reduce their risk:

1. Use of oral contraceptives: Women who use birth control pills for at least 3 years have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

2. Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Women who have had multiple pregnancies and who breastfeed have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

3. Tubal ligation: Women who have had their fallopian tubes tied have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

4. Prophylactic surgery: Women who have a high risk of ovarian cancer due to genetic mutations may choose to have prophylactic surgery, such as the removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes, to reduce their risk.


Ovarian cancer is a serious disease that affects thousands of women every year. While there is no sure way to prevent ovarian cancer, women can take steps to reduce their risk, such as using oral contraceptives, having multiple pregnancies, and having their fallopian tubes tied. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer or genetic mutations may consider prophylactic surgery to reduce their risk. Early detection is key to improving the prognosis of ovarian cancer, so women should be aware of the symptoms and speak with their healthcare provider if they experience any of them.

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