Ovulation and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer

Int J Cancer. 2003 Mar 20;104(2):228-32. doi: 10.1002/ijc.10927.


Incessant ovulation is thought to be one of the primary causes of epithelial ovarian cancer. However, the effects of ovulation at different ages and of the various exposures or events that suppress ovulation have not been established. We used data from an Australian case-control study of 791 ovarian cancer cases and 853 controls to examine the effect of ovulation on ovarian cancer risk. The total number of lifetime ovulations was calculated using information provided in a monthly contraceptive/reproductive calendar, as well as incorporating other information such as average menstrual cycle length. An increase of 1 year's worth of ovulation was associated with a 6% increase in risk of ovarian cancer (95% confidence interval [CI] = 4-8%). Ovulations in the 20-29-year age group were associated with the greatest risk, with a 20% increase in risk associated with each year of ovulation during this age period (95% CI = 13-26%). When the effects of different exposures that suppress ovulation were compared, there was an indication that some factors may have a greater effect than others. These findings support the theory that incessant ovulation is a major contributor to the occurrence of ovarian cancer and suggest that ovulations during the 20s may be those most associated with disease risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Epithelium / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menarche
  • Menopause
  • Odds Ratio
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Ovulation / physiology*
  • Parity
  • Reproductive History
  • Risk Factors


  • Contraceptives, Oral