Repeated exposure to the acute proinflammatory environment that follows ovulation at the ovarian surface and distal fallopian tube over a woman's reproductive years may increase ovarian cancer risk. To address this, analyses included individual-level data from 558,709 naturally menopausal women across 20 prospective cohorts, among whom 3,246 developed invasive epithelial ovarian cancer (2,045 serous, 319 endometrioid, 184 mucinous, 121 clear cell, 577 other/unknown). Cox models were used to estimate multivariable-adjusted HRs between lifetime ovulatory cycles (LOC) and its components and ovarian cancer risk overall and by histotype. Women in the 90th percentile of LOC (>514 cycles) were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer than women in the 10th percentile (<294) [HR (95% confidence interval): 1.92 (1.60-2.30)]. Risk increased 14% per 5-year increase in LOC (60 cycles) [(1.10-1.17)]; this association remained after adjustment for LOC components: number of pregnancies and oral contraceptive use [1.08 (1.04-1.12)]. The association varied by histotype, with increased risk of serous [1.13 (1.09-1.17)], endometrioid [1.20 (1.10-1.32)], and clear cell [1.37 (1.18-1.58)], but not mucinous [0.99 (0.88-1.10), P-heterogeneity = 0.01] tumors. Heterogeneity across histotypes was reduced [P-heterogeneity = 0.15] with adjustment for LOC components [1.08 serous, 1.11 endometrioid, 1.26 clear cell, 0.94 mucinous]. Although the 10-year absolute risk of ovarian cancer is small, it roughly doubles as the number of LOC rises from approximately 300 to 500. The consistency and linearity of effects strongly support the hypothesis that each ovulation leads to small increases in the risk of most ovarian cancers, a risk that cumulates through life, suggesting this as an important area for identifying intervention strategies. SIGNIFICANCE: Although ovarian cancer is rare, risk of most ovarian cancers doubles as the number of lifetime ovulatory cycles increases from approximately 300 to 500. Thus, identifying an important area for cancer prevention research.
©2020 American Association for Cancer Research.