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Several factors appear to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, including:

  • Oral contraception (birth control pills). Compared with women who've never used them, women who use oral contraceptives for five years or more reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by about 50 percent, according to the ACS.
  • Pregnancy and breast-feeding. Having at least one child lowers your risk of developing ovarian cancer. Breast-feeding a child also may reduce your risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Tubal ligation or hysterectomy. Having your tubes tied or having a hysterectomy may reduce your risk of ovarian cancer.

Women who are at very high risk of developing ovarian cancer may elect to have their ovaries removed as a means of preventing the disease. This surgery, known as prophylactic oophorectomy, is recommended primarily for women who've tested positive for a BRCA gene mutation or women who have a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancers, even if no genetic mutation has been identified.

Studies indicate that prophylactic oophorectomy lowers ovarian cancer risk by up to 95 percent, and reduces the risk of breast cancer by up to 50 percent, if the ovaries are removed before menopause.  Prophylactic oophorectomy reduces, but doesn't completely eliminate, ovarian cancer risk. Because ovarian cancer usually develops in the thin lining of the abdominal cavity that covers the ovaries, women who have had their ovaries removed can still get a similar but less common form of cancer called primary peritoneal cancer.

In addition, prophylactic oophorectomy induces early menopause, which in itself may have a negative impact on your health, including an increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and other conditions. If you're considering having this procedure done, be sure to discuss the pros and cons with your doctor.

Source: Mayo Clinic Online (

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