by Polsdorfer R

A risk factor is something that raises a person's risk of developing cancer. Some risk factors such as family history or genes cannot be changed. Fortunately, there are also risk factors which can be changed.

General Guidelines for All Women

The cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. However, certain things may help reduce the risk, such as:

  • Quitting smokingSmoking harms every cell in the body. Quitting smoking is an important step in preventing cancer. The doctor can offer guidance on quitting smoking.
  • Reaching and keeping a healthy weight —Eating a healthful diet may help reduce the risk of cancer. This includes eating low-fat, high fiber foods. Lots of fruits and vegetables are also advised. Healthful eating also helps control weight. A dietitian can help with goals and planning meals.
  • Regular exercise —Regular exercise is good for health and weight control. It helps to do 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days. This can be as simple as a brisk walk. The doctor can offer guidance.
  • Surgery —Removing both fallopian tubes may help prevent ovarian cancer. This may be done even if there is no risk due to genes. This option is advised for women who need a hysterectomy for any reason.

Other things that may help reduce ovarian cancer risk are:

  • Having children
  • Breastfeeding
  • Long-term use of birth control pills
  • History of gynecologic surgery, such as a hysterectomy or tubal ligation
  • Regular use of aspirin

These methods will not work for everyone. Some methods also carry serious risks. The risks may outweigh the long-term benefits. The doctor can offer guidance on risk.

General Guidelines for Women at High Risk

Certain things raise the risk for ovarian cancer. This includes being over 60 years old or having:

For those in a high risk group, the doctor may also advise:

  • Genetic testing —To assess risk based on any gene changes.
  • Bilateral salpingo- oophorectomy. This is surgery to remove both ovaries and fallopian tubes. It is advised for women who:
  • Are 35 years or older who are done having children, and
  • Have a genetic risk of ovarian cancer


Can ovarian cancer be prevented? American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed March 28, 2022.

Committee on Practice Bulletins–Gynecology, Committee on Genetics, Society of Gynecologic Oncology. Practice Bulletin No 182: hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome. Obstet Gynecol. 2017;130(3):e110-e126.

Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 28, 2022.

Ovarian cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Accessed March 28, 2022.

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