What is Ovarian Cancer?

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Located at the ends of the fallopian tubes in the female reproductive system, ovaries are almond-sized glands that produce eggs and in which the female hormones estrogen and progesterone are made. The Mayo Clinic explains that ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries, but can multiply quickly and invade and destroy healthy body tissue anywhere in the body.

Ovarian cancer begins when cells in or near the ovaries develop mutations in their DNA. The cancer cells grow and multiply quickly, forming tumors which can break off to spread or metastasize to other parts of the body. Depending on where the cancer begins, determines the type of ovarian cancer that develops and what the best treatment options are.

  • Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common
  • Stromal tumors which are rare are usually diagnosed earlier than other ovarian cancers
  • Germ cell tumors are rare ovarian cancers that tend to occur at a younger age

Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

  • Risk increases with age and is most often diagnosed in older women
  • Certain gene changes inherited from your parents
  • Family history of ovarian cancer
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy
  • Endometriosis
  • Early menstruation and/or late menopause
  • Never having been pregnant

Taking birth control pills can help reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer. Genetic testing, especially if there is a family history of breast or ovarian cancers, can help decide whether you should consider surgery to remove your ovaries in order to prevent cancer.

Connection Between Ovarian Cancer and Talcum Powder Use

While Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is probably the most recognizable brand of talcum powder used by women, there are multiple companies being sued by women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The cancer-causing ingredient in talcum powder is asbestos, and when it is used on the genital area or on undergarments, sanitary pads, diaphragms or condoms it is thought that it can enter the body and travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. Among the many studies conducted so far on the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, results have been mixed. Some studies have reported a slightly increased risk and some studies have reported no increase.

Studies have suggested that there is an increased risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases among talc miners and millers, due to the asbestos content naturally found in talc. Purified talc in consumer products does not contain asbestos.