If you start to see teal–colored wrist bands, you’ll know it’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, observed every September. It’s a great reminder, since the more informed we are, the better we can protect ourselves from this and other forms of cancer. While no one is 100% immune, you can minimize your risk, often dramatically. The key is understanding both your risk factors and your best prevention tactics. For example:
Ovarian cancer risk factors:
- Family history of ovarian cancer: Your family history means you may have an inherited risk, which might include changes in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Using estrogen–only HRT after menopause may increase your risk of ovarian cancer, which grows over time if usage is continued.
- Talcum powder: The use of talcum powder is associated with a 30-60% increased risk of ovarian cancer, possibly due to the chemical relationship between talc and asbestos–a known human carcinogen.1
- Obesity: Excess body fat is linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. In fact, obese women are at higher risk for multiple cancers, including endometrial, cervical, breast, and ovarian cancers.2
- Fertility drugs: These drugs may be linked to a higher risk of ovarian cancer.3
Now, some empowering news: the following tactics may decrease your ovarian cancer risk:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight: while obesity has repeatedly been shown to hike your risk of many forms of cancer, staying trim/fit can turn the tide in your favor.
- High antioxidant intake: Rich levels of antioxidants through food and supplements–especially carotenoids like alpha and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene–have been shown to minimize ovarian cancer risk.4
- Oral contraceptives: The use of birth control pills has been shown to lower ovarian cancer risk. The longer they’re used, the lower the risk may be.5
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: These are both linked to a decreased risk of ovarian cancer, which may be due to the fact that ovulation is reduced in women who are pregnant or nursing.
As you can see, we do have some power when it comes to cancer prevention. Now we simply need to put that knowledge into consistent, daily practice.
1 Eur J Cancer Prev. 2011 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print]
2 J Am Board Fam Med. 2011 Jan-Feb;24(1):75-85
3 Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2004 Dec;83(12):1104-11
4 Br J Nutr. 2007 Jul;98(1):187-93. Epub 2007 Mar 19
5 Ther Umsch. 2011 Jun;68(6):345-52