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Ovarian cancer risk factors

The exact causes of ovarian cancer are not known. The likelihood of developing the disease may be higher if a woman has one or more ovarian cancer risk factors. However, having risk factors does not mean you will develop the disease.

If you’re worried about ovarian cancer, or have a family history of the disease, talk with your doctor about genetic testing and other steps you can take to monitor or reduce your ovarian cancer risks.

cancer risks

Ovarian cancer risk factors

Some common risk factors for ovarian cancer include:


  • Age: Two-thirds of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are age 55 or older.
  • Childbearing status: Women who have delivered at least one child, especially before age 30, are at a lower risk for developing the disease. The more children a woman has, the more her ovarian cancer risk declines. Women who breastfeed further reduce their risk.


  • Obesity: Women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater may have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.


  • Family history: Women with a mother, sister, grandmother or aunt who has had ovarian cancer have a higher risk of developing it.
  • Genetic mutations: Some women who develop ovarian cancer have an inherited mutation on one of two genes called breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). Women with the BRCA1 mutation, have a 35 to 70 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer. Women with the BRCA2 mutation have a 10 to 30 percent higher risk. However, the vast majority of women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer don’t have either mutation. If you are concerned about this risk factor for ovarian cancer, you can discuss getting tested for both of the BRCA mutations with your OB-GYN.


  • Breast, colorectal or endometrial cancer: Women who’ve been diagnosed with one of these cancers have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Understanding risk factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.

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