Learn About Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian Cancer Now Linked To Obesity

In March 2014, the American Institute for Cancer Research officially added ovarian cancer to the list of cancers linked to excess weight.

This represents the first time that AICR, which focuses on the roles of diet, physical activity and weight in cancer risk, has judged the evidence on ovarian cancer strong enough to include it to AICR’s educational efforts.


What Are Ovarian Cancer’s Risk Factors?

  1. Family History: Having members of your immediate family with a history of ovarian or breast cancer places you at higher risk.
  2. Inherited Risk: Women who inherit mutations on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, as well as genes linked to conditions like hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and Lynch syndrome, are at higher risk for ovarian cancer.
  3. Age: Most cases are diagnosed in women over 55.
  4. Overweight/Obesity: Carrying excess body fat contributes to ovarian cancer risk.
  5. Adult Attained Height: Women taller than 5 feet, 8 inches are at higher risk for ovarian cancer than shorter women.
  6. Other Factors: According to the National Cancer Institute, other risk factors for ovarian cancer risk include use of estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy (HRT), fertility drugs and talc.

How Common Is Ovarian Cancer?

In the US, approximately 22,300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. It is the 9th most common cancer in women, and the fourth deadliest. It has the lowest survival rate of all female cancers.


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Focus on the Risk Factors You Control

To Lower Your Risk for Ovarian Cancer:

  1. If you smoke, stop. If you don’t, never start.
  2. Make everyday choices that will help you stay at or get to your healthy weight.

Find your healthy weight using the AICR Body Mass Index (BMI) Calculator.

Once you know your BMI, start moving more and eating well help you achieve your healthy weight.

Move More

Aim to get your body up and moving for at least 30 minutes every day. Try anything that:

  • Makes your heart beat faster
  • Makes you breathe more deeply
  • You already enjoy doing

Eat Well

  • AICR's Foods That Fight CancerTM

    AICR’s new web resource keeps you up-to-date about the latest research on foods that belong at the center of your New American Plate.

Get More:
  • Vegetables - Choose non-starchy ones like tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers and carrots; strong evidence links garlic to lower kidney cancer risk.
  • Fruit - Go for whole fruits more often, whether fresh or frozen. Because it's calorie-dense, limit even 100% fruit juice to 1 cup per day.
  • Whole Grains - Whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal are just a few great choices.
  • Beans - Add pinto, kidney, black, garbanzos and more to soups, salads and stews.
Get Less:
  • Sugary Drinks

    Regular sodas, lemonade and sweet tea add calories without filling you up.

  • Red meat like beef, pork and lamb

    These foods tend to be calorie-dense (and raise risk for esophageal cancer too).

  • Processed meat

    Processed meat like hot dogs, cold cuts, bacon and sausage are often high in calories and also increase risk for esophageal cancer.

A good rule of thumb:

Always fill at least 2/3 of your plate with plant foods, and let animal foods (meat and dairy) take up the rest.

What the Research Shows

Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Cancer of the Ovaries

Source: Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective
CONVINCING Effect on Risk:  

Adult Attained Height

PROBABLE Effect on Risk:


Excess Body Fat

What’s the Link?

Excess Body Fat RAISES Ovarian Cancer Risk

  • Being overweight and obese increases blood levels of insulin and related hormones that can encourage the growth of cancer.
  • Excess fat also creates a pro-inflammatory environment in the body that can contribute to the growth of cancer.

Adult Attained Height RAISES Ovarian Cancer Risk

  • Many interrelated hormonal factors influence how tall a person grows; some of these factors also influence cancer risk.
  • It’s not tallness itself that increases risk, but the network of factors that contribute to tallness.

For related AICR supported studies visit our research section.

Looking Forward


Today, your chances for overcoming ovarian cancer and returning to an active and full life are the best they've ever been.

But throughout your treatment, and after its over, you will face many everyday questions. AICR can help.

AICR's CancerResource: A Program for Those Living with Cancer is a free toolkit of information specifically for the newly diagnosed cancer patient. Developed with an Advisory Committee of experts, AICR CancerResource's offers worksheets and guidance on eating and being active both during and after treatment.

You can download the handbook or receive a print copy. To see inside pages and purchase a hardcopy, visit our store.

Visit our section for Cancer Survivors for more resources and information.

Join the fight against cancer

Join the Fight Against Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is too often a deadly disease, yet the choices we make every day could play a role in making fewer cases happen.

Your support for AICR's cancer research, survivorship, and education programs will help us get one step closer to preventing ovarian cancer and saving lives.

Your gift will help fund emerging research on ovarian cancer and other cancers and improve the quality of health for ovarian cancer patients and survivors.

Honor Someone Facing Ovarian Cancer

Make a gift in memory of a loved one. Your gift will help fund research and survivorship programs for those with Ovarian cancer and other cancers for years to come.

Give in Memory of a Loved One

Make a gift in memory of a loved one. Your gift will help fund research and survivorship programs for those with Ovarian cancer and other cancers for years to come.