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Most women have one or more risk factors for ovarian cancer. But risk factors only partly explain the disease, since most of them increase risk only slightly. So far, what we know about risk factors has not led to ways to prevent the disease.

For women at average risk

If you are at average risk of ovarian cancer, you may be able to lower your risk if you use birth control pills, get your “tubes tied’ (a tubal ligation), or have your uterus removed. Still, all of these have risks and side effects, and so generally shouldn’t be used just to lower the risk of ovarian cancer in women who are not high risk.

For women at high risk due to certain gene changes (mutations)

Women with a family history of ovarian (or certain other cancers) might want to find out if they have a family cancer syndrome that could increase the risk of ovarian cancer. This is done by first talking with a genetics professional about their personal and family history. If the genetics professional finds that the woman has a high risk of having a family cancer syndrome, genetic testing can be done to look for the mutations that cause the syndrome. Someone who has a mutation can then take steps to lower the chance of getting ovarian cancer. Some of the things that women who have one of the mutations can do to lower the risk of ovarian cancer include taking birth control pills and having their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.

More information about how these options affect cancer risk can be found in our document Ovarian Cancer.

More details about genetic testing can be found in our document, Genetic Testing: What You Need to Know.

Last Medical Review: 08/08/2014
Last Revised: 02/03/2016