When the cells in the ovary grow and multiply uncontrollably they can cause ovarian cancer. There are several factors which can cause the increased risk of a woman having ovarian cancer. Having a risk factor does not always mean that you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may not have any known risk factors. But still it is important to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Age- Majority of the cases of ovarian cancer are found after menopause especially after the age of 50 years.
Family history- if some close family member (mother, sister, aunt) has had history of ovarian cancer then you are at increased risk.
Certain defective genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 also increase the risk of having breast or ovarian cancer. But having a family history does not always mean that you have a defective gene. Only 10-15 % of the cases are caused due to gene defects.
If you have previously had breast, uterine or colorectal cancer.
Having ovarian endometriosis (condition in which cells lining the uterus grow outside the uterine cavity like the ovaries or elsewhere in the abdomen)
Early menarche or late menopause also poses an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
History of infertility(inability to conceive) or never borne children also increases the risk.
Women taking hormone replacement therapy especially more than 5 years of use are also at increased risk although the risk is less.
Diabetics are at 15- 20 % increased risk of developing ovarian cancer as compared to non diabetics.
Smoking and alcohol abuse also pose increased risk.
Having one or more of the above risk factors does not mean that you will have ovarian cancer. But you discuss with your doctor the risk factor and opt for genetic counselling if you have positive family history.