Ovary Removal Helps High-Risk Women Avoid Cancer; Study Suggests Earlier Better for Some Women

February 25, 2014

New research in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that for women who carry either of two BRCA cancer genes surgery to remove healthy ovaries may be one of the most protective moves they can make. The Associated Press reports that this preventive surgery can lower a woman’s chance of getting either ovarian or breast cancer and reduce women's risk of death before age 70 by 77 percent. However, some specialists take a cautious approach to the research. Susan Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Research Center for BRCA and an oncologist in the Abramson Cancer Center, who was not involved with the study, says women shouldn’t act sooner if they’re not ready. For women who have babies during their late 30s, ovary removal sends them into early menopause and can increase their risk of bone-thinning osteoporosis or heart disease later on. "If you are talking to a woman who hasn't yet finished having her kids, it's a completely reasonable thing to discuss the low risk of ovarian cancer by age 40 in the context of the other decisions that she's making in her life," Domchek says, adding that for BRCA1 carriers, "by age 40, I will be nagging you about this again."

Associated Press article