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Study finds women with more children have lower risk of ovarian cancer

Can you really reduce your risk of ovarian cancer by having more children? It seems so, at least according to researchers at Oxford University.

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The findings from a recent study were presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) annual conference in Liverpool, and show that women who have just one child are 20 percent less likely to develop one of the four types of ovarian cancer (serous, mucinous, endometrioid or clear cell tumours) than those who have none, while a further risk reduction of 8 percent was seen with each successive child.

Women who had their fallopian tubes clipped or cut were also found to be at a 20 percent lower risk overall of developing ovarian cancer. The study’s data came from The Million Women Study, which included 8,000 women who were suffering from ovarian cancer.

It’s well known among scientists that women who have never ovulated do not develop ovarian cancer, says The Telegraph. This may be due to the fact that the more eggs a woman produces in her lifetime, the more likely she is to suffer damage to cells and develop cancer.

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This is because the ovary must rupture in order to release an egg, and then heal again, which leads to a higher risk of developing cancer. When a woman is pregnant, this process stops, and it’s this pause in ovulation that is thought to reduce her risk of ovarian cancer.

But lead researcher and pathologist Dr. Kezia Gaitskell from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford says that women without children may not have had children because of fertility issues (such as endometriosis), which can themselves lead to a higher risk of cancer.

“We think that the significant reduction in risk among women with one child compared to women without children is likely to be related to infertility, as there are some conditions — such as endometriosis — that may make it harder for a woman to become pregnant, and which may also increase her risk of these specific types of ovarian cancer,” she said, according to The Telegraph.

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