According to UCLA Health System, ovarian cancer is the ninth most common form of cancer among women, and approximately 21,980 new cases of ovarian cancer occurred in the U.S. in 2014. A new study evaluated survival trends for the malignancy from 1975 to 2011 and reported significant improvements. The findings were published in the June edition of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology by researchers at Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital, both in New York, New York.
The study authors note that over the past three decades, the treatment options for ovarian cancer have significantly expanded. Improvements have occurred in both surgery and chemotherapy for the disease. However, despite those advances, improvement in survival for women with ovarian cancer remains challenging. Because of limited data describing changes in survival for ovarian cancer over the past three decades, they conducted a study to assess the survival in women with ovarian cancer from 1975 to 2011.
The investigators reviewed data from women diagnosed with ovarian cancer from 1975 to 2011 and recorded in the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database. Relative survival, which refers to an estimate of the observed survival of cancer patients, based on death from any cause, to the expected survival of a comparable group from the general population. The data was adjusted for age, race, year of diagnosis, time since diagnosis, and the interaction of age and years since diagnosis.
The study group comprised 49,932 women. For stage I ovarian cancer, the increased risk for death in 2006 was 51%, compared to those diagnosed in 1975. The decrease in mortality remained significant when compared with 1980 and 1985. For women with stage III–IV malignancies, the mortality risk was lower in 2006 compared with all other years of study; it ranged from 49% compared to 1975 to 93% relative to 2000. For women aged 50–59 years, the 10-year relative survival was 85% for stage I disease and 18% for stage III–IV malignancies. For women aged 60–69 years, the corresponding 10-year relative survival estimates were 89% and 15%.
The authors concluded that the relative survival for all stages of ovarian cancer improved from 1975 to 2011.
The cause of ovarian cancer is unknown; however, certain risk factors exist that represent an increase of developing the malignancy. The following have been suggested as risk factors for ovarian cancer:
- Age (over the age of 55)
- Hormone replacement therapy. Some studies have suggested that women who use hormone replacement therapy after menopause may have a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer.
- Infertility (inability to become pregnant)
- Personal history of breast or colon cancer
- Family history. First-degree relatives (such as mother, daughter, sister) of a woman who has had ovarian cancer are at risk for developing the disease. The risk increases if 2 or more first-degree relatives have had ovarian cancer. A family history of breast or colon cancer is also associated with an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Certain fertility drugs
Some measures that may reduce the risk:
- Healthy diet (high in fruits, vegetables, grains, and low in saturated fat)
- Staying at a healthy weight throughout life
- Birth control pills
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Oophorectomy: Surgical removal of ovaries if you’re at high risk for ovarian cancer
Research has shown that certain genes are responsible for increasing the risk of ovarian and breast cancer. Genetic counseling can tell you whether you have 1 of these gene mutations. If your family history suggests that you may have 1 of these gene mutations, you might want to talk to your doctor about genetic testing.