Cancer is a prevalent disease that is much too common in our society. Fortunately, researchers are working hard at pinpointing the causes of many types of cancers. In recent years, a lot of attention has been focused on ovarian cancer and its origin in the fallopian tubes. Here’s what you should know about ovarian cancer and how you may be able to prevent it.
The Formation of Cancer Cells in the Ovaries
There are a few factors that can cause ovarian cancer:
- Many serious cancerous tumors have the TP53 genetic mutation so some women could be at risk for ovarian cancer due to family genetics. This mutation is the cause of Type II, high-grade tumors and there are 2,329 kinds of TP53 mutations that have been identified in human ovarian cancers. It’s important to know your family history to determine if you may have this gene.
- Some researchers have speculated that there is a connection between the regularity of ovulation and the presence of ovarian cancer. In fact, several studies have shown that women who have breaks in ovulation due to pregnancy and breast-feeding have a lower risk of ovarian cancer. Additionally, women who take oral contraceptive pills (which causes fewer ovulatory cycles) reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by almost 50%. However, women who have a natural cause for fewer ovulation cycles (such as polycystic ovarian syndrome) are actually at an increased risk for ovarian cancer.
- Based on dozens of studies, researchers have found that women who have used talcum powder on their genitals are 30% more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer than those who do not. There are two reasons for this increased risk. First of all, talc occurs in nature near asbestos (they have a similar mineral composition) which is a known carcinogen. Many talc samples in the past have been shown to have traces of asbestos within the product. Secondly, talc particles have been found in the ovaries of women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Some researchers believe that the particles travel up the fallopian tubes and into the ovaries where they cause inflammation. Inflammation has been linked as a potential catalyst for cancer.
Ovarian Cancer and the Fallopian Tubes
Many studies have hypothesized that ovarian and extraovarian tumors may have precursor lesions in the fallopian tubes. This has resulted in many women who have the breast cancer gene (BRCA) to have bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (BSO) surgery to remove both of the ovaries and fallopian tubes. In the United States, approximately 600,000 hysterectomies (where the uterus is removed) are performed each year and about 55% of hysterectomies involve removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes. But this surgery isn’t without life-changing potential adverse effects; cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and even cognitive impairment have been linked to this type of surgery.
A better option that many doctors recommend is to get a bilateral tubal ligation (commonly known as “getting your tubes tied”). This process involves surgically blocking the fallopian tubes to prevent the ovum (egg) from being fertilized. An analysis of 13 studies showed that there was a 34% risk reduction for ovarian cancer after this procedure.
Preventing Ovarian Cancer
Are you at risk for ovarian cancer? There are three things that you should do to prevent this disease:
- Talk to your family members to see if anyone has been diagnosed. Currently there aren’t regular screenings or preventative tests to see if you’re at risk for ovarian cancer. (A pap smear tests for cervical cancer, not ovarian cancer.)
- Don’t use talcum powder. Many studies have shown that talc can cause ovarian cancer, so avoid this product and use cornstarch instead.
- Talk to your doctor about your concerns. While getting a tubal ligation or BSO surgery may seem like an option to prevent ovarian cancer, there are always risks to any medical procedure. Discuss your family history, worries, and symptoms with your doctor to ensure the best decision is made for your health.
“The role of the fallopian tube in the origin of ovarian cancer”. NCBI. Accessed January 3, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3937451/
“Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer”. National Center for Health Research. Accessed January 3, 2019. http://www.center4research.org/talcum-powder-ovarian-cancer/