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Ovarian cancer rates plummet as more take contraceptives

Deaths from ovarian cancer are on the decline, new figures show.

Despite being one of the most common cancers for women, mortality rates have declined 33 percent from 1976 to 2015, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.

Additionally there have been fewer cases of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer from 1985 to 2014, with a decrease of 29 percent.

While improvements in treatment likely partially account for the decrease in deaths, the report’s authors also estimate that it is driven by a decline of diagnoses in white women, who are the most likely to get ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer deaths have fallen by 33 percent and diagnoses have fallen by 29 percent, a new report has revealed

The report estimates that in 2018 there will be approximately 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed and 14,070 deaths from the disease in the US.  

Ovarian cancer has been called the ‘silent killer’ because it is often diagnosed at an advanced stage when it has already spread to other parts of the body.

About 80 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease. 

However, if caught in an early stage, a woman has a more than 90 percent chance of long-term survival.  

Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause with half of all cases found in women age 63 or older. 

However, the report found that, continuously since 1975, incidence rates of ovarian cancer among women above age 65 have fallen.

Why ovarian cancer is called a ‘silent killer’ 

About 80 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease.

‘It’s diagnosed so late because of where it’s located, in the pelvis,’ Dr Drapkin said. 

‘The pelvis is like a bowl, so a tumor there can grow quite large before it actually becomes noticeable.’

The first symptoms to arise with ovarian cancer are gastrointestinal because tumors can start to press upward.

When a patient complains of gastrointestinal discomfort, doctors are more likely to focus on diet change and other causes than suggest an ovarian cancer screening.

Dr Drapkin said it’s usually not until after a patient endures persistent gastrointestinal symptoms that they will receive a screening that reveals the cancer.

‘Ovarian cancer is often said to be a silent killer because it doesn’t have early symptoms, when in fact it does have symptoms, they’re just very general and could be caused by other things,’ he said.

‘One of the things I tell women is that nobody knows your body as well as you do. If you feel something isn’t right, something’s probably not right.’

The researchers believe that this is likely due to an increase in women using oral contraceptives. Although birth control pills have been on the market since 1960, their use was not as widely accepted as it is today.

Studies have shown that among women who use oral contraceptives for five to nine years total, their risk of ovarian cancer is reduced by about 35 percent.

White women have the highest rate of getting ovarian cancer, followed by Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, black, and American Indian/Alaska Native women, respectively.

The researchers say that racial and ethnic differences in ovarian cancer risk are partially explained by known risk factors.

Multiple births, the use of oral contraceptives, having your tubes tied, and having one or both ovaries removed reduce risk, while menopausal hormone use increases risk. 

However, the report adds that the strongest risk factor for ovarian cancer is a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.  

This is because these cancers can be caused by an inherited mutation in certain genes that cause a family cancer syndrome – or cancers that run in families – which increases the risk of ovarian cancer.

Mutations of two specific genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, account for almost 40 percent of ovarian cancer cases in women with a family history of the disease.  

Women with BRCA mutations are given the option to remove their ovaries in order to prevent developing cancer.    

Dr Ron Drapkin, an associate professor of pathology in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania, told Daily Mail Online in a previous interview that 30 percent of women with BRCA mutations choose not to have their ovaries removed in part because it brings on menopause much earlier than normal. 


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