There are many ways a woman can reduce her risk of developing ovarian cancer. Some can be easily implemented while others require surgery. It is important to note that there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of ovarian cancer and all women are at risk. It does not strike one ethnic group or age group. If you or someone you know is concerned about the risk of ovarian cancer, talk with a health care professional. A health care professional can help identify ways to reduce risk as well as decide if consultation with a genetic counselor would be appropriate.
- Oral contraceptive or birth control pills
The use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) decreases the risk of developing ovarian cancer, especially among women who use them for several years. Compared with women who never used oral contraceptives, those who used oral contraceptives for three or more years have about a 30 percent to 50 percent lower risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Tubal ligation or hysterectomy
Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure to “tie” the fallopian tubes thus preventing pregnancy. When preformed after childbearing, tubal ligation may reduce the chance of developing ovarian cancer by up to 67 percent. A hysterectomy or removal of the uterus may also reduce the risk for ovarian cancer.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding
Having one or more children, plus breast-feeding for one year or more, may also decrease the risk of ovarian cancer. Doctors do not recommend making choices about when to have a child specifically for the purpose of reducing ovarian cancer risk, especially since using oral contraceptives will have a greater impact on reducing this risk.
- Removal of the ovaries or prophylactic oophrectomy
A prophylactic salpingo-oophrectomy is a surgery to remove both of the ovaries and fallopian tubes before ovarian cancer occurs. This operation causes premature menopause in premenopausal women and may be unnecessary. Generally it is recommended only for certain very high-risk patients, such as those with BRCA gene mutations or other hereditary ovarian cancer mutations. This operation lowers ovarian cancer risk a great deal but does not entirely eliminate it.