Graphic of a woman in space with DNA

What are the risk factors for ovarian cancer?

By Nancy Kupka, PhD, RN Oct 12, 2022 • 2 min

We know that in any type of cancer, some of the body's cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. In the case of ovarian cancer, this originates in the ovaries, fallopian tubes or the peritoneum (tissue that lines the abdominal wall and organs). While ovarian cancer causes are not well understood, some risk factors are known.

Most women have one or more risk factors for ovarian cancer, but most of these only slightly increase your risk. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will definitely develop the disease, and some people who get the disease may not have any known risk factors. Still, it's important to be aware of these possible influences so you can better understand your risk factors.

Ovarian cancer is most common in women who are postmenopausal, meaning they have permanently stopped having their menstrual periods. But there are other risk factors for ovarian cancer, including:

  • A family history of ovarian cancer, including your mother, grandmother, aunt, daughter or sister
  • Inherited changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • Other hereditary conditions, such as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC, also called Lynch syndrome)
  • Endometriosis
  • Hormonal replacement therapy
  • Being obese or overweight

If you are concerned about your risk of ovarian cancer, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you consider risk factors and preventive strategies as they apply to your own situation and health history.

Published December 2019.
Clinically reviewed and updated by Julie McDaniel, MSN, RN, CRNI, October 2022.