Conditions associated with antibodies against the tumor-associated antigen MUC1 and their relationship to risk for ovarian cancer

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 May;14(5):1125-31. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-05-0035.


Many cancers, including ovarian, overexpress epithelial mucin (MUC1) and promote anti-MUC1 antibodies that may correlate with more favorable prognosis. By extension, risk for ovarian cancer might be reduced by preexisting MUC1-specific immunity. We measured anti-MUC1 antibodies in 705 control women, identified events predicting antibodies, and estimated ovarian cancer risk by comparing profiles of events generating antibodies in controls with those in 668 ovarian cancer cases. Factors predicting antibodies included oral contraceptive use, breast mastitis, bone fracture or osteoporosis, pelvic surgeries, nonuse of talc in genital hygiene, and to a lesser extent intrauterine device use and current smoking. There was a significant increase in the likelihood of having anti-MUC1 antibodies from 24.2% in women with 0 or 1 condition, to 51.4% in those with five or more conditions. By the same index of events, the risk for ovarian cancer was inversely associated with number of conditions predisposing to anti-MUC1 antibodies. Compared with having experienced 0 or 1 event, the adjusted risk for ovarian cancer decreased progressively with relative risks (and 95% confidence limits) of 0.69 (0.52-0.92), 0.64 (0.47-0.88), 0.49 (0.34-0.72), and 0.31 (0.16-0.61), respectively for women with two, three, four, and five or more events related to the presence of antibodies (P(trend) < 0.0001.) We conclude that several traditional and new risk factors for ovarian cancer may be explained by their ability to induce MUC1 immunity through exposure of MUC1 to immune recognition in the context of inflammatory or hormonal processes in various MUC1-positive tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / immunology
  • Boston
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucin-1 / blood*
  • Mucin-1 / immunology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / blood
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Mucin-1