Obesity may be linked to higher rates of ovarian cancer

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Obesity has long been associated with higher rates of breast cancer, but a recent study has noticed a possible link between excess weight and ovarian cancer.

Researchers with the National Cancer Insitute looked at 303 cases of ovarian cancer in women age 50 to 71 from 1996 through 2003. At the beginning of the study, about a third of the women were overweight, and about a quarter were obese. They were also mostly Caucasian, post-menopausal and in their early 60s.

A connection was found between ovarian cancer among women with a high body mass index who had never taken menopausal hormone therapy; this group showed a nearly 80% higher risk compared with normal-weight women. No correlation was noted between having a high BMI and ovarian cancer among women who had at some point used the hormone therapy. Among other discoveries: Ovarian cancer was also associated with a family history of the disease.

Researchers believe one explanation might lie in the fact that excess weight could lead to higher estrogen levels; that may promote the growth of ovarian cells, which could in turn have an effect on ovarian cancer.


The study was published online this month in the journal Cancer.

--Jeannine Stein