Pregnancy, breast feeding, and oral contraceptives and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer

J Clin Epidemiol. 1990;43(6):559-68. doi: 10.1016/0895-4356(90)90160-q.


To quantify the effects of cumulative months of pregnancy, breast feeding, and oral contraceptive use on the risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer, the authors used data collected for the Cancer and Steroid Hormone Study--a multicenter, population-based, case-control study. Detailed reproductive histories were obtained from 436 women aged 20-54 with epithelial ovarian cancer newly diagnosed between December 1980 and December 1982, and from 3833 women aged 20-54 selected at random from the same geographic areas. Estimated relative risks of epithelial ovarian cancer were 0.6 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.5-0.8) for women who had ever been pregnant, 0.6 (95% CI 0.5-0.8) for women who had ever breast fed, and 0.5 (95% CI 0.5-0.7) for women who had ever used oral contraceptives. Logistic regression analysis revealed a strong trend in decreasing risk of epithelial ovarian cancer with increasing cumulative months of pregnancy; this effect was less pronounced in women aged 50-54 than in younger women. In contrast, a marked reduction in risk was associated with ever having breast fed or used oral contraceptives, while the decrease in risk from additional months of either of these exposures was less than that for pregnancy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Contraceptives, Oral / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Ovulation
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy*
  • Risk Factors


  • Contraceptives, Oral