Report: Ovarian Cancer Rates Continue to Decrease

June 6, 2018 5:30 pm

The following article is provided by The Clearity Foundation to support women with ovarian cancer and their families. Learn more about The Clearity Foundation and the services we provide directly to women as they make treatment decisions and navigate emotional impacts of their diagnosis.

Report: Ovarian Cancer Rates Continue to Decrease

A new report from the American Cancer Society finds rates of ovarian cancer have declined by 29% between 1985 and 2014. Ovarian cancer deaths have declined 33% between 1976 and 2015. The report, Ovarian Cancer Statistics, 2018, was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians and as an accompaniment to Cancer Facts & Figures 2018.

Ovarian cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer death among women in the US. Currently, there is no recommended screening test for ovarian cancer, although large scale randomized clinical studies are ongoing to identify ways to discover effective screening methods.

Some women report symptoms in the months prior to diagnosis, but often the symptoms are non-specific, and usually women who have these same symptoms do not have cancer. Still, women who have any of these symptoms, especially if they happen every day for more than a few weeks, should see their health care provider. The symptoms include bloating, pelvic, abdominal, or back pain, trouble eating as much as you’re used to, and having to urinate more often.

Ovarian cancer survival is relatively low because most cases are advanced by the time they are diagnosis due to a lack of obvious symptoms during early stages of disease. Among women diagnosed with ovarian cancer during 2007 to 2013, 47% lived at least 5 years after diagnosis.

Highlights from the report:

  • Ovarian cancer incidence rates have been decreasing since the mid-1980s. Overall ovarian cancer incidence declined by 29% from 1985 (16.6 per 100,000) to 2014 (11.8 per 100,000).
  • The death rate declined by 33% between 1976 (10.0 per 100,000) and 2015 (6.7 per 100,000). This progress is due to reductions in incidence and improvements in treatment.
  • In contrast to overall trends, which are driven by older ages, incidence of ovarian cancer among women under 65 has generally declined since at least 1975, probably reflecting uptake of oral contraceptives, which are known to reduce risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Among women who use oral contraceptives for 5 to 9 years total, risk is reduced by about 35%.
  • In addition to oral contraceptives, risk is reduced with childbirth and tubal ligation, while menopausal hormone use increases risk.
  • Incidence rates for epithelial ovarian cancer, the most common subtype, are highest in non-Hispanic whites (10.0 per 100,000) and lowest in non-Hispanic blacks (6.9 per 100,000).
  • The strongest risk factor for ovarian cancer is a family history of breast or ovarian cancer: risk is increased by 50% if a woman has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with ovarian cancer and by 10% if she has a first-degree relative with breast cancer.
  • Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes account for almost 40% of ovarian cancer cases in women with a family history of the disease.
  • Genetic testing is recommended for all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer to help them and their family members make well-informed health-related decisions. A health care provider can help set up a meeting with a genetic counselor to discuss details about testing.

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