The specific causes of ovarian cancer are unclear. In general, ovarian cancer, like other forms of cancer, develops when genetic mutations transform normal, healthy cells into abnormal cells that divide and multiply in an unorderly fashion. The resulting accumulation of cells can form a tumor that may become malignant, invade nearby tissues and sometimes spread to other tissues and organs throughout the body.
While the causes of ovarian cancer are not completely understood, the scientific community continues to make progress in learning how certain DNA mutations that occur in the cells of the ovaries can lead to a buildup that eventually becomes cancerous.
Inherited genetic mutations
There are certain inherited genetic mutations that can cause healthy ovarian cells to become cancerous, including mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Mutations can also occur in genes that are associated with other family cancer syndromes such as PTEN tumor hamartoma syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, MUTYH-associated polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer.
Acquired genetic changes
Most often, a mutation that causes ovarian cancer is acquired, rather than inherited, meaning that the genetic changes occur during the course of the woman’s lifetime as opposed to being present at birth. However, studies have not yet pinpointed any specific reasons that may be causing these mutations.
Other ovarian cancer risk factors
While the following factors don’t necessarily cause ovarian cancer to develop, they are known to increase a person’s risk of developing it:
- Age – Ovarian cancer most commonly occurs in women who are 50 to 60 years old.
- Family history – Having two or more close relatives with ovarian cancer increases risk.
- Hormone therapy – Estrogen hormone replacement therapy (especially in large doses or long-term use) can increase a person’s chance of developing ovarian cancer.
- Menstruation onset and menopause – Ovarian cancer risk is increased in women who began menstruating at an early age and/or started menopause at a later-than-average age.
Why choose Moffitt for ovarian cancer treatment?
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we are strongly committed to conducting groundbreaking research and promising clinical trials dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer and other types of cancer. This focus ensures that we remain firmly positioned at the forefront of cancer treatment. In recognition of our efforts, the National Cancer Institute has designated Moffitt as the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in Florida. Moffitt maintains this distinction as we work to improve survival rates and patient quality of life.
To learn more from the cancer experts at Moffitt about what causes ovarian cancer, please call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. Our physicians will be pleased to consult with you, even if you don’t have a referral.