Causes and prevention of ovarian cancer

The cause of cancer of the ovary is unknown. But there are things called risk factors that can increase your chance of getting the disease. These include:

  • No children: It is more common in women who have not had children.
  • Age: As you get older and have gone through the menopause, you are more likely to develop it.
  • Family history of cancer: A faulty gene can lead to ovarian cancers in a very small number of women. It is also linked to the faulty genes found in breast cancer. If you or a member of your family have a history of ovarian, breast, womb or bowel cancer, your risk is higher. If your mother or sister gets ovarian cancer, you have an even higher risk of the disease.
  • Receiving HRT: There is a slightly higher risk if you have received hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and received drugs to stimulate the ovary during infertility treatments. Some research suggests that being infertile may be a slight risk but research is ongoing to know for certain.

If you feel you may be at risk of ovarian cancer, first talk to your family doctor (GP) about your concerns. He or she may advise you to visit a specialist. There are specialist clinics for people worried about the risk of ovarian cancer in their family, some may offer screening or counselling. Your family doctor will advise on what to do.