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    Ovarian cancer risk is greater in taller, heavier women

  • Risk of ovarian cancer in Western nations is increasing as average height and weight increase.

  • The association between increased body mass index and increased risk of developing serous tumors of borderline malignancy is greater than for other tumor subtypes.

  • Taller women are slightly more likely to develop ovarian cancer. So are heavier women, if they have never taken hormone replacement therapy.

    In fact, if all other relevant factors remain constant, normal, average increases in height and weight in high-income countries account for a 3% increase in ovarian cancer incidence per decade, according to the results of a recent meta-analysis.

    Researchers from the United Kingdom included data from more than 25,000 women with the disease and more than 81,000 women without it from 47 epidemiologic studies conducted in 14 countries. About half of the women were from Europe; the rest were from North America.

    Published April 3 online in PLoS Medicine (2012;9[4]:e1001200), the data reveal that every 5-cm increase in height is associated with an adjusted relative risk (RR) for ovarian cancer of 1.07 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05-1.09, P<0.001) and every 5 kg/m2 increase in body mass index (BMI) is associated with an adjusted RR for ovarian cancer of 1.10 (95% CI, 1.07-1.13, P<0.001), but only in never-users of menopausal hormone therapy; ever-users had an adjusted RR of 0.95 (95% CI, 0.92-0.99, P=0.02).

    The increase in ovarian cancer risk did not vary significantly with regard to age, birth year, ethnicity, education level, age at menarche, parity, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, use of oral contraceptives, menopausal or hysterectomy status, or consumption of alcohol or tobacco.

    The associations remained broadly consistent with all of the common histological subtypes of ovarian cancer, except for serous tumors of borderline malignancy. With these tumors, which comprise about 5% of all ovarian tumors, the increase in risk with increasing BMI was considerably greater than for the other tumor subtypes.

    Read other articles in this issue of Special Delivery


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