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J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2008 Mar;11(3-4):301-21. doi: 10.1080/10937400701876095.

Risk factors for ovarian cancer: an overview with emphasis on hormonal factors.

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McLaughlin Center for Population Health Risk Assessment, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Ovarian cancer is the fifth most frequently occurring cancer among women and leading cause of gynecological cancer deaths in North America. Although the etiology of ovarian cancer is not clear, certain factors are implicated in the etiology of this disease, such as ovulation, gonadotropic and steroid hormones, germ cell depletion, oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, growth factors, cytokines, and environmental agents. Family history of breast or ovarian cancer is a prominent risk factor for ovarian cancer, with 5-10% of ovarian cancers due to heritable risk. Reproductive factors such as age at menopause and infertility contribute to greater risk of ovarian cancer, whereas pregnancy, tubal ligation, and hysterectomy reduce risk. Oral contraceptive (OC) use has clearly been shown to be protective against ovarian cancer. In contrast, large epidemiologic studies found hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to be a greater risk factor for ovarian cancer. The marked influence of hormones and reproductive factors on ovarian cancer suggests that endocrine disrupters may impact risk; however, there is a notable lack of research in this area. Lifestyle factors such as cigarette smoking, obesity, and diet may affect ovarian cancer risk. Exposure to certain environmental agents such as talc, pesticides, and herbicides may increase risk of ovarian cancer; however, these studies are limited. Further research is needed to strengthen the database of information from which an assessment of environmental and toxicological risk factors for ovarian cancer can be made.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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