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Causes - Ovarian cancer

Main causes of ovarian cancer

The risk of developing ovarian cancer increases with age, with more than half of all cases in the UK in women aged 65 and over.

Anyone with ovaries can get ovarian cancer.

You may have a higher chance of getting ovarian cancer if you:

  • inherited a faulty gene, such as the BRCA genes or those linked to Lynch syndrome
  • had breast cancer or bowel cancer
  • had radiotherapy treatment for a previous cancer
  • have endometriosis or diabetes
  • started your periods at a young age or went through the menopause late (over 55), or have not had a baby – because these things may mean you’ve released more eggs (ovulated more)
  • have never used any hormonal contraception, such as the pill or an implant
  • are taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • are overweight
  • smoke

It's still possible to get ovarian cancer even if you've had your ovaries removed. This is because ovarian cancer can also affect your fallopian tubes, or the lining inside your tummy (peritoneum).

How to lower your risk of getting ovarian cancer

You cannot always prevent ovarian cancer but there are things you can do to lower your chances of getting it.


  • quit smoking

  • stay a healthy weight or lose weight if you're overweight

  • talk with a GP about possible tests or treatment (taking a hormonal contraception or removing your ovaries) if ovarian cancer runs in your family


It's important to get any symptoms of ovarian cancer checked by a GP.

Page last reviewed: 24 January 2022
Next review due: 24 January 2025