Women who inherit genes putting them at high risk of Breast and Ovarian Cancer can prevent both by having their ovaries removed. That is according to a study led by Dr. Kenneth Offit of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. His team followed 173 women with faulty BRCA genes, whose lifetime risk of cancer is much higher than the average woman.
Researchers found a 75% decrease in risk for both Breast and Ovarian Cancer following removal of the ovaries in women who are high risk for those cancers. "Certainly one would expect removal of the ovaries would decrease rates of Ovarian Cancer, but because the ovaries make estrogen, we feel that this also now contributes to the decreased rates of Breast Cancer because of the lower estrogen environment," says Dr. Denneth Offit.
Dr. Offit reported his study today (Monday) at the meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology in Orlando. By the way, most of the women studied with the faulty BRCA gene already had children, so they didn't have to worry that losing their ovaries would mean giving up on having a family in order to reduce their cancer risk.
101 of the women had their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. After two years, only three of the women who had their ovaries removed developed Breast Cancer and just one developed Ovarian Cancer in the surrounding tissue. Among the 72 women who kept their ovaries, eight developed Breast Cancer and four developed Ovarian Cancer.