Ovarian cancer is a form of cancer that attacks a woman’s ovaries through rapid growth of abnormal cells in, on, or near the ovaries. However, according to Target Ovarian Cancer, about 85% of ovarian cancers are sporadic and unrelated to genetics or family history. That means that you may be able to reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer by managing your lifestyle and daily routines!
The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition estimates 1 in every 75 women will develop ovarian cancer in her lifetime, and of those, approximately 14,000 will die of the disease in a single year. That makes ovarian cancer the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
September is Ovarian Cancer Prevention Month. Take the time to learn what you can do today to prevent this deadly disease from making you its next target.
The following are six things you can start doing now to help reduce your risk of ovarian cancer.
1. Move More, Eat Smarter
You’ve heard it before. Exercise and healthy eating habits are the ground floor of a healthy, cancer-free you.
Doctors recommend 30 minutes of regular, sweaty, heart-pounding exercise, which may reduce your risk of Ovarian Cancer and Breast Cancer by as much as 10 – 20%. Bright Pink has also found that Ovarian Cancer is more likely to attack women with vitamin deficiencies. Cancer-fighting foods include carrots, sweet potato, whole grains, flax, tropical fruits, broccoli, cauliflower and leafy greens.
For those of you already battling cancer, vitamin D could slow the growth of cancer cells. Get your fill from the sun, fatty fish, orange juice, milk, nuts, beans, eggs and fortified cereals. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before getting any vitamin injections.
2. Stop Using Talcum Powder
Talcum powder and ovarian cancer became intertwined back in the 1970s, but only recently has this connection become public knowledge. Many have become familiar with the connection through the constant talcum powder lawsuits headlines touting massive settlements. While studies are not yet definitive on this matter, we recommend avoiding talcum powder use in the genital region and, if you absolutely need to use it, do so while wearing a surgical mask to avoid inhalation.
Many condom companies powder their non-lubricated products to prevent them from sticking together when unrolling. While most have made the switch to less harmful cornstarch, some still use talc or talc mixtures. To avoid purchasing condoms dusted with Ovarian Cancer causing talc, seek lubricated or vegan options over powdered varieties.
3. Birth Control Pills
Studies by the American Cancer Society show that women who take oral contraceptives for a minimum of 5 years (consecutive or nonconsecutive) lower their risk of contracting ovarian cancer by as much as 50%!
Of course, the pill is not for everyone and there are significant risks associated with each. Talk to your doctor about your options and whether taking an oral contraception to prevent ovarian cancer is a good health move.
4. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Women who experience their first pregnancy prior to the age of 30 are at a lesser risk of a diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that women who breastfeed for a year or more have a significantly reduced chance of cancer development in/on the ovaries.
Breast-feeding “lowers the risk for both breast and ovarian cancer by decreasing estrogen levels and the number of times you’ll ovulate over the course of your life. It also may reduce a female baby’s overall risk of developing Breast Cancer later in her life,” according to Bright Pink.
5. Protect Yourself from Diabetes
A 2014 study done by Gynecological Oncology found that of patients undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer, those with diabetes mellitus (DM) show significantly reduced outcomes in comparison to patients who do not have Diabetes, regardless of weight and lifestyle. Metformin may be increase chances of survival in patients undergoing treatment for both ovarian cancer and diabetes. Your doctor can help you better understand your options.
You can reduce your risk of a diabetes diagnosis by maintaining healthy eating and exercise habits. Doctors and Nurses at the Harvard School of Public Health recommend keeping to a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco and minimizing alcohol use to 3 drinks per week. Red meat and processed meats, sugary beverages, and fried and packaged foods all contribute to an increased risk of diabetes.
Surgeries that remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes are an option for women at increased risk of ovarian cancers. The surgery can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer by up to 90% in postmenopausal women and up to 70% in premenopausal women according to doctors and advocates at World Ovarian Cancer Day.
While surgery can prevent ovarian cancer development, it does pose additional side effects and should not be sought solely for cancer prevention. Talk to your doctor and family if you’re considering such a solution.
Spread the Word to Prevent Ovarian Cancer
While there is no guaranteed protection against ovarian cancer, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing this deadly disease by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you have other risk factors of ovarian cancer, such as a family history or genetic predisposition, you should make sure to get your regular annual checkups and let your doctor know about any potential signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer – and any other health problems – right away.
And don’t forget to talk about ovarian cancer with the women in your life. By spreading the word, you may just save a life!