To put the risk in perspective, the trio wrote that while the risk of this cancer type is somewhat higher for women with endometriosis, it is more likely they will develop a cancer type that is far more common in the general population, such as breast cancer.
If women remain concerned, they underscored that general measures to improve one’s health — a balanced diet, a low alcohol intake, regular exercise, smoking cessation, and a healthy weight goes a long way toward lowering the risk of all types of cancers.
The article, “Informing women with endometriosis about ovarian cancer risk,” was issued as a correspondence to the journal by Marina Kvaskoff from French INSERM, Andrew W. Horne from the University of Edinburgh in the U.K., and Stacey A. Missmer from the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health.
Their decision to bring clarity to the topic stems from a concern that a lack of understanding of what the increase in ovarian cancer risk means may lead to faulty treatment decisions.
For instance, they underscored that current methods to screen for ovarian cancer — transvaginal ultrasound and serum CA-125 tests — are not backed up by evidence showing they are truly effective in detecting ovarian cancer early.
Rather, the screening may lead women to take drastic measures to lower their risk — surgically removing both ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Surgery, in and of itself, always carries the risk of surgical complications, they wrote. But it also is likely to bring on an early-onset menopause in premenopausal women — a condition that is linked to a 162 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease — the main killer of women reaching menopause.
This risk can be compared to the very small risk increase for ovarian cancer. In the general population, about 1 in 76 women will develop ovarian cancer. This is a rate of 1.31 percent over a woman’s lifetime.
Among those with endometriosis, the risk increases to about 1.8 percent — a negligible difference, the researchers said. This means that the vast majority of women with endometriosis will never develop ovarian cancer.
The risks for other types of cancers are far greater than this, they pointed out. Breast cancer appears in 12 percent of women, lung cancer strikes in 6 percent of the population and bowel cancer in 4 percent.
Women who carry specific mutations that increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer may have a risk of up to 39 percent.
They did, however, admit that certain types of ovarian cancer appear more commonly in women with endometriosis. These cancers, however, usually are detected early and have a better prognosis than other ovarian cancer types.