Epidemiology of ovarian cancer

Methods Mol Biol. 2009;472:413-37. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60327-492-0_20.


Ovarian cancer represents the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the world, and causes more deaths per year than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Despite the high incidence and mortality rates, the etiology of this disease is poorly understood. Established risk factors for ovarian cancer include age and having a family history of the disease, while protective factors include increasing parity, oral contraceptive use, and oophorectomy. Lactation, incomplete pregnancies, and surgeries such as hysterectomy and tubal ligation may confer a weak protective effect against ovarian cancer. Infertility may contribute to ovarian cancer risk among nulliparous women. Other possible risk factors for ovarian cancer include postmenopausal hormone-replacement therapy and lifestyle factors such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. Many of the causes of ovarian cancer are yet to be identified. Additional research is needed to better understand the etiology of this deadly disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / classification
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology