Risk Factors

While there is currently no effective early detection test available, there are some known risk factors that may increase a woman’s chance of developing ovarian cancer. They include:

  • Family History and Genetics – While it accounts for a limited number of cases, heredity is a strong risk factor for ovarian cancer. Women who have a mother, daughter, or sister with ovarian cancer have an increased risk of the disease. Also, women with a personal or family history of cancer of the breast, prostate, pancreas, uterus, colon or rectum may also have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations, those associated with Lynch Syndrome and other hereditary genetic mutations have been linked to an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

For more information on BRCA1 and BRCA2, check out CSC’s fact sheet Frankly Speaking About Cancer: BRCA1/BRCA2 Mutations.

Genetic Counseling and Testing
The Society of Gynecologic Oncology and National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend that any woman diagnosed with ovarian, fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer—regardless of age or family history—receive genetic counseling and be offered genetic testing. Knowledge of a hereditary genetic mutation associated with increased risk of cancer can help guide treatment and surgical decisions, in addition to informing family members about their potential risk of certain cancers. Pre- and post-test counseling is essential to understanding genetic testing options and results. Genetic counseling and testing can be conducted by a genetic counselor or other knowledgeable medical professional. Genetic testing in epithelial ovarian cancer patients is considered “medically necessary” and is covered by most insurance providers.

  • Age - The average age of diagnosis for ovarian cancer is 63, but ovarian cancer can also occur in older and younger women.
  • Pregnancies - Women who have never been pregnant have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Menstruation – More menstrual cycles/early menarche (first menstrual period) is associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy – Women who use hormone therapy to alleviate symptoms of menopause may be at an increased risk for ovarian cancer.


Updated May 27. 2015