Risk factors

The causes of ovarian cancer are still not understood completely, though as in the rest of tumors, there are certain risk factors that increase the chances of having a tumor. The risk of developing ovarian cancer at an early age is very low, and the risk increases with age.

80% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed in women over 50.

The risk factors are:


First period (menarche) at an early age

Late onset of menopause

Being treated with hormones (hormone replacement therapy)

  • Endometriosis
  • Cysts in the ovaries

The risk of having ovarian cancer increases when a women has had cysts before age 30.


Smoking over a long period of time increases the risk. People who smoke and drink may have a high risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Being overweight

Excess weight may increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.


Diets that are high in animal fats and low in fresh fruits and vegetables may cause a higher risk.

Family history

The risk of developing ovarian cancer increases if members of your close family (mother or sisters) have had this kind of tumor. Also, ovarian tumors can increase the risk the risk of developing other tumors, such as breast cancer.

Only 10% of diagnoses of ovarian cancer are due to inheriting a mutated gene (genetic mutation). If a family has one of these "mutated genes," it is common for other members of the family to have tumors related to the breast or pancreas or to develop melanoma.

Your doctors will need to know your close family's history of cancer, such as cancer in your parents, siblings, and children.

If any of the aforementioned family members have developed any of the tumors referred to above, you may have inherited that "mutated gene," thus making the risk of developing ovarian cancer higher if:

  • There are at least two cases of family history of ovarian cancer (at least one must be in your immediate family, that is, your mother or a sister)
  • A diagnosis of ovarian cancer in your immediate family and a diagnosis of breast cancer in members of your immediate or extended family before age 50
  • A diagnosis of ovarian cancer in your immediate family and two people diagnosed with breast cancer before age 60.
  • A diagnosed case of cancer of the ovaries, colon, or endometrium in at least three family members.