New research found that young women with irregular menstrual periods may be at high risk of developing and dying from ovarian cancer later in life.
This new research provides the first evidence linking abnormally long cycles or missed periods to higher ovarian cancer risk. The research also provides the first evidence linking abnormally long cycles or missed periods to higher ovarian cancer risk.
The findings also challenge a longstanding hypothesis that such risk rises progressively with a woman’s total number of ovulations.
Fewer ovulatory cycles is widely viewed as a protective factor against ovarian cancer. This is why hormonal birth control pills, pregnancy and tubal ligations have been thought to reduce risk of ovarian cancer.
Researchers are curious about this recent study because it contradicts what has been widely accepted about ovarian cancer and incessant ovulation.
Ovarian cancer account for just 3% of all cancers in women, regardless it is the leading cause of gynecological cancer deaths. Less than half of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer survive more than five years.
In order to identify risk factors, researchers analyzed data from more than 15,000 California women who enrolled in a pregnancy study in 1959.
The study intended to tract disease risk over the lifetime of the mothers and their children. Menstrual irregularities are cycles that last longer than 35 days or a long-term history of infrequent or missed periods. About 13% of the women in the study reported irregular periods.
Over the next fifty years, 116 women developed ovarian cancer, of which 84 died. Women with a history of menstrual irregularities were almost twice as likely as women with normal periods to develop ovarian cancer and die from it by the age of 70. The link appeared to strengthen with age.
Researchers believe that many of the women in the study who developed ovarian cancer also suffered from a hormonal disorder called polycystic ovarian syndrome. However, it is difficult to know for sure as the diagnostic criterion was established after the start of the study.
Researchers how that the new study will guide future research not only about who is at risk for ovarian cancer, but also about who might benefit from screening or prevention efforts.