Reducing Ovulation Occurrence Over a Lifetime Could Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk
May 26, 2022
New MWRI study explores a woman’s total number of lifetime ovulations and their relation to ovarian cancer risk
Interventions that reduce the number of times a woman ovulates over the course of her life may reduce her risk of developing ovarian cancer, a new study from Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) finds. The study was recently published in the journal Gynecologic Oncology.
According to the study, interventions that reduce a woman’s total number of lifetime ovulations will reduce her risk of ovarian cancer. These interventions include having children and using oral contraception. In addition, for some women, exclusively breastfeeding may inhibit ovulation and reduce risk for the disease as well.
“Ovarian cancer can be a deadly disease – among the different gynecologic cancers, it’s the most fatal. Currently there are limited treatments available. Understanding how ovarian cancers begin can help researchers develop prevention strategies and treatment approaches,” said Francesmary Modugno, Ph.D., a principal investigator with MWRI and senior author on the study.
For the study, Dr. Modugno and colleagues systematically analyzed data from 31 published studies that assessed the relationship between total number of lifetime ovulations and ovarian cancer risk. The studies encompassed a broad range of designs and included women from five continents.
“From this analysis, we now know that reducing a woman’s total number of lifetime ovulations will reduce her risk of ovarian cancer. There a few ways women can do this. We believe that understanding the relationship between a total number of lifetime ovulations and ovarian cancer can help us better understand how ovarian cancer begins,” said Dr. Modugno.
Dr. Modugno’s research focuses on identifying lifestyle and behavioral factors associated with ovarian cancer risk so women can understand ways to reduce their risk for the disease. Her previous research has shown that breastfeeding is associated with a significant decrease in ovarian cancer risk, including the most lethal type of the disease.
In her team’s next study, they will be examining the same questions in a large, international consortium of ovarian cancer studies, allowing them to more precisely quantify the relationship between lifetime ovulations and ovarian cancer risk for the different subtypes of the disease, which may have different origins.
“We will also investigate whether factors such as having children, using oral contraceptives, and breastfeeding impart their protective effects solely by reducing ovulation or whether other mechanisms are at work,” she said. “Our hope is that these data may provide insight not only into how ovarian cancer begins, but ways to prevent it from occurring in the first place.”