Genes and Ovarian Cancer: What Every Woman Should Know

Medical science tells us that an important relationship exists between ovarian cancer and genes. Because ovarian cancer is a potentially life-threatening disease, it's crucial for every woman to have as much information about this condition as possible. Here are some of the most important aspects of the connection between genetics and cancer of the ovaries.

Specific Genes

The main genes that research has identified as a risk factor for ovarian cancer are known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. These two genes are an important part of the body's arsenal in suppressing tumors. Unfortunately, in some people, these genes mutate and are not able to function properly. In this instance, your body's ability to fight cancerous growths is compromised and the chances of developing a malignancy increase. In addition to the increased risk of developing the disease over their lifetime, women with this mutation are also more likely to get the disease at a younger age.

Family History

Your family history is critical. Because the BRCA genes can cause other types of cancers, it important to learn if any of your close relatives have or ever had the following conditions: ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer. Ask your family members if anyone in the family was ever diagnosed with these diseases. The genes in question can be inherited from both your father and your mother, so ask about relatives on both sides of your family.


Certain groups have more of a risk for the genetic mutations that cause ovarian cancer. One such group is Jewish people whose ancestors can be traced to Central or Eastern Europe, known as Ashkenazi Jews. If you belong to this ethnic group, then your risk of developing various types of cancer, including ovarian cancer, rise significantly.

Lynch Syndrome

Another risk factor for ovarian cancer is Lynch syndrome. This hereditary condition is caused by several types of damaged genes. If one of your parents has this mutation, then there is a 50 percent chance that they will pass it on to you. Like the BRCA genes, having Lynch syndrome can lead to a woman developing ovarian cancer at an earlier age than is usually the case. The risk for women with this condition coming down with ovarian cancer is 6 to 8 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The genetic link between genes and ovarian cancer is clear and is an important risk factor for the disease. If have any concerns that you may have ovarian cancer, or simply wish to learn more about this condition and your potential risk, consult a gynecologist like Triad OB-GYN PC.