Risk Factors

  • An immediate (mother, sister, or daughter) family member who has had ovarian cancer increases your risk of developing this disease about three times, giving you a 5% to 7% risk of future ovarian cancer.
  • When the cause is genetic, ovarian cancer usually shows up a decade earlier in each successive generation. (If your mother had ovarian cancer in her 60s, you stand a good chance that this disease will develop in you in your 50s.)
  • Genetic counseling is a good idea for women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancers. Women with a family history may opt for oophorectomy, although this procedure does not offer absolute protection it does reduce risk by 75% to 90%
  • Research has determined that women who use powders to dust their genital areas have a 60% higher risk of ovarian cancer. Feminine deodorant sprays can almost double your risk.
  • Women who use oral contraceptives for at least five years reduce their chance of developing ovarian cancer by half for the short-term following use and possibly for lifetime. The longer you use the pill, the lower your risk. ​
  • Having two or three children can cut your risk by as much as 30% over women who never conceive or give birth. Having five or more children reduces the risk up to 50%, and breastfeeding your children can further reduce your risk.​
  • Tubal ligation reduces a woman’s risk up to 70%.

Remember, the best way to detect ovarian cancer is by regular pelvic examinations. See your gynecologist for a Pap smear (screens for cervical cancer only) and pelvic/rectal exam yearly or as your physician determines best for you.