Ovarian cancer continues to be a very troubling cancer for modern medicine. The biggest problem with this particular form of the disease is that it is often caught too late. Like pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer often does not present with any specific symptoms until it has spread. Women need to know the factors that can help protect them from this type of cancer as prevention becomes even more important when early detection is so difficult.
Ovarian cancer is not nearly as common as breast cancer, but it still affects a significant number of women in this country. In 2005, more than 19,000 females were diagnosed with ovarian cancer [Source: CDC]. It causes more deaths than cancer of the cervix and uterus. It typically affects women ages 40 and older. Unique factors seem to affect the risk for ovarian cancer. Oral birth control usage actually seems to lower ovarian cancer risk [Source: Bertone-Johnson, Thomas]. Previous pregnancies can also decrease risk [Source: Bertone-Johnson]. Tubal ligation, a permanent female sterility treatment, seems to play a role in lowering the risk of ovarian cancer as well, though it is not necessarily known why or for how long this may be protective [Source: Irwin]. Oral forms of estrogen hormone replacement seem to increase risk, and Caucasian women appear to have a higher risk [Source: Glud]. Aspirin used three times a week decreased the risk of ovarian cancer [Source: Johnson]. Most likely, this is due to anti-inflammatory effects that we also see from vitamin D, healthy fats and increased fruits and vegetables.
Lifestyle seems to play a role in ovarian cancer, as it seemingly does with all cancers. One of the most consistent lifestyle factors that may increase a person's risk for ovarian cancer is obesity [Source: Bertone-Johnson]. Being overweight may be one of the first risk factors looked at to control or prevent this cancer. Higher levels of physical activity offer protection by reducing obesity [Source: Cottreau]. Data suggests that vitamin D can be protective against ovarian cancer as well [Source: Lefkowitz]. Interestingly, obese females who were vitamin D deficient seemed to be more at risk for ovarian cancer than nonobese females [Source: Tworoger]. Higher cholesterol levels (over 200) were associated with an increased risk as well [Source: Helzlsouer].
On the next page, read about dietary habits to adopt that can help prevent cancer.