Gestational trophoblastic disease causes and risk factors

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on June 8, 2022.

Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) is a term used to describe a group of rare conditions that cause abnormal trophoblast cells to develop within the uterus following contraception. Although most GTD diagnoses are benign (non-cancerous), certain tumors may become cancerous and metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body.

What causes gestational trophoblastic disease?

The cause of gestational trophoblastic disease depends on a variety of factors including the GTD type. However, the most common causes are when a sperm cell fertilizes an empty egg or when two sperm cells fertilize a single egg.

Gestational trophoblastic disease risk factors

Risk factors for gestational trophoblastic disease vary. Factors associated with a woman’s pregnancy may increase her risk. They include those listed below.

Age: Women who are younger than 20 or older than 35 at the time of conception may have a higher risk of developing GTD. Women who are over the age of 45 at the time they become pregnant may have an even higher risk.

History of molar pregnancy: Women who have had a previous molar pregnancy, which involves the unusual growth of trophoblasts, or who have a family history of molar pregnancy, may have a higher risk of GTD.

History of miscarriage: Women who have had a miscarriage may have a higher risk of developing GTD.

Blood type: Women with an A or AB blood type may have a higher risk of GTD.

Learn more about treatments for gestational trophoblastic disease

Next topic: What are the symptoms of gestational trophoblastic disease?

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