Contact: David Sampson
American Cancer Society
Study links obesity to elevated risk of ovarian cancer
A new epidemiological study has found
that among women who have never used menopausal hormone therapy, obese
women are at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer compared
with women of normal weight. Published in the February 15, 2009 issue
CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer
Society, the research indicates that obesity may contribute to the
development of ovarian cancer through a hormonal mechanism.
cancer is the most fatal of gynecologic malignancies, and has a 5-year
survival rate of only 37 percent. While studies have linked excess body
weight to higher risks of certain cancers, little is known about the
relationship between body mass index and ovarian cancer risk.
investigate this issue, Dr. Michael F. Leitzmann of the National Cancer
Institute and colleagues studied 94,525 U.S. women aged 50 to 71 years
over a period of seven years. The researchers documented 303 ovarian
cancer cases during this time and noted that among women who had never
taken hormones after menopause, obesity was associated with an almost
80 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer. In contrast, no link between
body weight and ovarian cancer was evident for women who had ever used
menopausal hormone therapy.
According to Dr. Leitzmann, these
findings support the hypothesis that obesity may enhance ovarian cancer
risk in part through its hormonal effects. Excess body mass in
postmenopausal women leads to an increased production of estrogen,
which in turn may stimulate the growth of ovarian cells and play a role
in the development of ovarian cancer.
Among women with no
family history of ovarian cancer, obesity and increased ovarian cancer
risk were also linked in this study. However, women that did have a
positive family history of ovarian cancer showed no association between
body mass and ovarian cancer risk.
These latest findings
provide important additional information related to women's risks of
developing ovarian cancer. "The observed relations between obesity and
ovarian cancer risk have relevance for public health programs aimed at
reducing obesity in the population," the authors wrote.
"Body mass index and risk of ovarian cancer." Michael F. Leitzmann,
Corinna Koebnick, Kim N. Danforth, Louise A. Brinton, Steven C. Moore,
Albert R. Hollenbeck, Arthur Schatzkin, and James V. Lacey, Jr.
CANCER; Published Online: January 05, 2009 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.24086); Print Issue Date: February 15, 2009.