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What causes ovarian cancer?

Causes of ovarian cancer lie on a broad spectrum, varying from genetic causes to other general factors.

Dr. Nimesh P. Nagarsheth, MD
Gynecologic Oncologist

While family history and genetics play a role in ovarian cancer, 85 percent of cases have no known cause. In this video, Nimesh Nagarsheth, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, discusses some possible causes.

There are a lot doctors who don’t know about what causes ovarian cancer. Even hereditary syndromes cause probably, at most, 10 percent of all ovarian cancers.

Ovarian cancer may be an accumulation of damage of the lining of the capsule of the ovary. And perhaps as the body gets older, it’s harder for it to repair itself, so these damages take over, making ovarian cancer more common in older women.

Ovarian cancer occurs when the cells of the ovary start to divide and grow more quickly than the cells in normal tissue. Every time you ovulate, or release an egg, cell division occurs in your ovaries to repair damaged cells at the site of ovulation. The cells may make mistakes while copying your DNA. These mistakes, or DNA mutations, cause the abnormal growth. Certain inherited mutations may also predispose women to ovarian cancer.

Doctors and scientists are researching what causes ovarian cancer. What is known, is that women who have family members that have had ovarian, breast or bowel cancer are more likely to get it. Some women might get it without any risk factors.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.