The role of the fallopian tube in ovarian cancer

Clin Adv Hematol Oncol. 2012 May;10(5):296-306.


High-grade serous carcinoma (HGSC) is the most common and lethal subtype of ovarian cancer. Research over the past decade has strongly suggested that "ovarian" HGSC arises in the epithelium of the distal fallopian tube, with serous tubal intraepithelial carcinomas (STICs) being detected in 5-10% of BRCA1/2 mutation carriers undergoing risk-reducing surgery and up to 60% of unselected women with pelvic HGSC. The natural history, clinical significance, and prevalence of STICs in the general population (ie, women without cancer and not at an increased genetic risk) are incompletely understood, but anecdotal evidence suggests that these lesions have the ability to shed cells with metastatic potential into the peritoneal cavity very early on. Removal of the fallopian tube (salpingectomy) in both the average and high-risk populations could therefore prevent HGSC, by eliminating the site of initiation and interrupting spread of potentially cancerous cells to the ovarian/peritoneal surfaces. Salpingectomy may also reduce the incidence of the 2 next most common subtypes, endometrioid and clear cell carcinoma, by blocking the passageway linking the lower genital tract to the peritoneal cavity that enables ascension of endometrium and factors that induce local inflammation. The implementation of salpingectomy therefore promises to significantly impact ovarian cancer incidence and outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / pathology
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Fallopian Tube Neoplasms / etiology
  • Fallopian Tube Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Fallopian Tube Neoplasms / therapy
  • Fallopian Tubes / pathology*
  • Fallopian Tubes / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / etiology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / therapy