Ovarian cancer: 3 preventable factors that could be increasing your risk from Dr Tim Woodman, Medical Director at Bupa UK insurance.
Every year, over 7,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with ovarian cancer – but some cases are thought to be preventable. With Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month coming to a close, Dr Tim Woodman, Medical Director at Bupa UK Insurance shares three factors that may increase your risk, and steps to take to help reduce your risk of developing the disease.
What increases your risk of developing ovarian cancer?
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer. Some are unavoidable, like getting older, or if the disease runs in your family. However, there are also three preventable factors that can increase your risk.
According to Cancer Research UK, obesity is the biggest preventable cause of ovarian cancer. Recently, one study has shown that an obese person with the most common form of ovarian cancer has a 17% greater risk of dying from it, compared to a person within a healthy weight range.
Smoking increases your risk of developing fifteen types of cancer, including some ovarian cancers. Specifically, there’s a higher risk associated with smoking and developing a type of the disease called mucinous cancer.
3. Your working environment
Studies have shown that some jobs can increase your chances of getting ovarian cancer – it’s thought this is due to being exposed to some chemicals and materials, including the insulating material, asbestos.
The chemicals involved in dry cleaning, paper packaging and within the graphic and printing industry are all thought to have been linked to an elevated chance of developing ovarian cancer, too.
How to reduce your risk of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer isn’t always preventable but living a healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk of developing it.
Take care of your body. Eat well – commit to eating a balanced diet, including five items of fruit and vegetables a day, avoid eating too many saturated fats, reduce your alcohol intake and drink lots of water. If you’re overweight it could be a good idea to lose weight too, to help reduce your risk.
Make sure you’re moving throughout the week, too – 150 minutes of moderate activity helps to keep your circulatory system in good condition.
If you’re a smoker, quitting is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of developing all cancers – not just ovarian.
Genes and ovarian cancer
Your family history can put you at higher risk of developing several cancers, including ovarian and breast cancer. If you inherit two specific faulty genes – BRCA1 or BRCA2 – this may increase your likelihood of getting ovarian cancer. You can get tested for these genes if you’re diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Another genetic condition that can increase your risk of ovarian cancer is Lynch syndrome. This condition is connected to a faulty gene that it makes it harder for your body to repair cells as they go through their natural replication process. When cells can’t replicate properly, they don’t work as they should – this can increase the likelihood of them growing out of control and becoming cancerous.
If you have a family history of ovarian cancer, speak to a health professional – they may be able to refer you to a genetic counselling clinic, which may include treatments or tests to help identify and reduce your risk.