Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer refers to cancer that starts in the ovaries. Two cancers related to ovarian cancer are primary peritoneal cancer and fallopian tube cancer. The type of cells that cover the ovaries are called epithelial cells. These cells also make up the lining of the pelvis and abdomen, called the peritoneum, and the lining of the fallopian tubes. Approximately 80-85% of ovarian cancers begin in the epithelial cells of the ovaries, peritoneum, or fallopian tubes.

There are several other types of ovarian cancers, as well as different types of non-cancerous ovarian tumors. Knowing the type of ovarian cancer a woman has is important because it can provide information about the chances of having a hereditary form of ovarian cancer.

How Common Is Ovarian Cancer?1

1% of new cancers

Ovarian cancer makes up 1% of all cancers diagnosed in the US. While not common, it is ranked 5th in cancer deaths for women. Early detection is important because the earlier it is diagnosed, the higher the survival rate.

1 in 77 women

Approximately 1 in 77 women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime.

As men do not have ovaries, they are not at risk for ovarian cancer.

How Genetic Mutations Increase Ovarian Cancer Risk

Mutations are rare, but when they exist, they significantly increase cancer risk.

Women and ovarian cancer risk

Risk among US women to develop ovarian cancer.

Interesting Information2

Hormonal factors can increase risk of ovarian cancer.

Exposures to certain substances such as estrogen (without progesterone) after menopause is known to slightly increase the risk of ovarian cancer, as is having your menstrual cycle begin before the age of 12 and having menopause after the age of 55.

There are factors that can decrease risk.

Using oral contraceptives (birth control pills), having a lower body mass index (BMI), giving birth for the first time before the age of 35, breastfeeding, and surgical removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes may reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Useful Resources


  1. SEER Cancer Statistics Factsheets: Female Breast Cancer
    . Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, National Cancer Institute Website. Accessed April 7, 2015. Available at seer.cancer.gov.
  2. What are the risk factors for ovarian cancer?. American Cancer Society Website. Updated February 04, 2016. Available at www.cancer.org.