Second Cancers After Ovarian Cancer

Cancer survivors can be affected by a number of health problems, but often their greatest concern is facing cancer again. If a cancer comes back after treatment it is called a “recurrence.” But some cancer survivors may develop a new, unrelated cancer later. This is called a “second cancer.” No matter what type of cancer you have had, it is still possible to get another (new) cancer, even after surviving the first.

Unfortunately, being treated for cancer doesn’t mean you can’t get another cancer. People who have had cancer can still get the same types of cancers that other people get. In fact, certain types of cancer and cancer treatments can be linked to a higher risk of certain second cancers.

Survivors of ovarian cancer can get any type of second cancer, but they have an increased risk of:

Women treated with radiation therapy also have an increased risk of soft tissue cancer and possibly pancreas cancer.

The increased risk of leukemia is linked to treatment with chemotherapy. The main drugs linked with leukemia risk are platinum agents (like cisplatin and carboplatin) and alkylating agents (like cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide). The risk increases as the total dose of these drugs increases, but the overall risk is still low.

Genetic factors that may have caused ovarian cancer in the first place may also add to the risk of breast and colorectal cancers. For example, women with mutations in the BRCA genes have a high risk of both ovarian and breast cancer, as well as some other cancers. Women with the inherited disorder called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC, also called Lynch syndrome), have a high risk of colon, rectum, small intestine, and renal pelvis cancers, as well as ovarian and other cancers.

Other risk factors for ovarian and breast cancer that overlap may also help explain some of the increased risk of breast cancer in ovarian cancer survivors.

Studies have shown that the risk of developing solid tumors is higher during all follow-up periods after ovarian cancer.

Can I lower my risk of getting a second cancer?

There are steps you can take to lower your risk of getting another cancer and stay as healthy as possible. For example, it’s important to stay away from tobacco products. Smoking increases the risk of many cancers.

To help maintain good health, ovarian cancer survivors should also:

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight
  • Keep physically active and limit sitting or lying down time
  • Follow a healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and that limits or avoids red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods.
  • It’s best not to drink alcohol. If you do drink, have no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men.

These steps may also lower the risk of some other health problems.

See Second Cancers in Adults for more information about causes of second cancers.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Freedman DM, Curtis RE, Travis LB, Fraumeni Jr JF. New Malignancies Following Cancer of the Uterine Corpus and Ovary. In: Curtis RE, Freedman DM, Ron E, Ries LAG, Hacker DG, Edwards BK, Tucker MA, Fraumeni JF Jr. (eds). New Malignancies Among Cancer Survivors: SEER Cancer Registries, 1973-2000. National Cancer Institute. NIH Publ. No. 05-5302. Bethesda, MD, 2006. Accessed on 2/13/2018 at http://seer.cancer.gov/archive/publications/mpmono/MPMonograph_complete.pdf.

Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2020;70(4). doi:10.3322/caac.21591. Accessed at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21591 on June 9, 2020.

Last Revised: June 9, 2020

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