Certain factors may increase your risk of ovarian cancer. Having one or more of these risk factors doesn't mean that you're sure to develop ovarian cancer, but your risk may be higher than that of the average woman. These risk factors include:
Inherited gene mutations. While the vast majority of women who develop ovarian cancer don't have an inherited gene mutation, the most significant risk factor for ovarian cancer is having an inherited mutation in one of two genes called breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). These genes were originally identified in families with multiple cases of breast cancer, which is how they got their names, but people with these mutations also have a significantly increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Women with the BRCA1 mutation have a 35 to 70 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer than do women without this mutation, and for women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is between 10 and 30 percent higher. For most women, the overall lifetime risk is about 1.5 percent, according to the ACS. You're at particularly high risk of carrying these types of mutations if you're of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
Another known genetic link involves an inherited syndrome called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). Women in HNPCC families are at increased risk of cancers of the uterine lining (endometrium), colon, ovary and stomach. Risk of ovarian cancer associated with HNPCC is lower than is that of ovarian cancer associated with BRCA mutations.
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Source: Mayo Clinic Online (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ovarian-cancer/DS00293)