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Ovarian Cancer: What Would You Do To Lower Your Risk?

By HERWriter
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Most women don’t think about ovarian cancer. With no family history for roughly 90 percent, they know little about it. Consequently, few ever think to take protective measures that could lower their risk. However, there is something women can do that not only lowers their risk, but also reduces the risk of recurrence. Walk.

Over the last few years, medical studies have shown that moderate exercise, like walking, reduces the risk of several cancers. An American Cancer Society study, led by Alpa Patel, showed women who are active, lowered their risk of breast cancer by nearly 30 percent. For those with a breast cancer history, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University found that the risk of death from the disease was reduced by 19 percent in patients who walk 1-3 hours/week, by 54 percent by walking 3-5 hours/week and 42 percent for those walking 5-7 hours/week.

Kaiser Permanente and the University of Utah found that men and women lowered their risk of colorectal cancer with exercise (American Journal of Epidemiology No.3:214-224) and a study by Vanderbilt University showed reduction of endometrial cancer by as much as 40 percent with exercise(www.aphroditewomenshealth.com/news/20040231001140_health_news.shtml).

Ovarian cancer, on the other hand, is so aggressive that the disease seems completely out of our control. After following hundreds of patients and thousands of women, researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada found a decrease in the risk of the disease with moderate physical activity (www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/ijc.).
The reasons for the reduction in risk may be due to enhancement of the immune system and increased antioxidant defense systems, which occurs with moderate exercise but is reduced with extreme exercise.

Some researchers speculate that the benefit is a result of exercise regulating the hormone and growth factor levels that occurs with physical activity.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle studied 114 postmenopausal, overweight, sedentary women and found that, with moderate exercise, they were able to reduce their cancer risk markers. Exercising 45 minutes a day, five days a week, women were tested over a year for two blood markers that show inflammation (C-reactive protein and serum amyloid) which are associated with cancer risk and survival.

And finally, the National Geographic longevity report, the Blue Zones, found that people live longer when they live in “walk-able” communities, a common condition of people around the globe who live the longest, healthiest lives.

The bottom line: Get in motion. The American Cancer Society recommends 30 minutes or more per day, five days a week. Of course, exercise is not a guarantee against getting cancer and I know of fit women who still develop it. But if you can help reduce your risk, improve your chance of survival, and generally feel better, why wouldn’t you?

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I don't agree with the article or others that are on Google Ovarian Cancer. I take care of myself, take an aspirin every day, walk almost every day, eat well and no family history of this disease and I got it.

February 23, 2010 - 7:41pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I too am an active woman with ovarian cancer. I golf, walk and am always busy it seems, eat most of the right foods, no family history of ovarian, but also have it. Do I think the article was not useful? No, I think it's quite useful if a person isn't active or has dietary habits that are not idea. The ideas in the article seem commonsense to me that would enhance our health. Perhaps that's why I've survived over 10 years with late stage disease.

February 23, 2010 - 8:15pm

Your article is exactly what we can do to reduce our risk of recurrence. Walking may be free but so is choosing a positive mental attitude; they both make our lives much more centered. Wonderful article!


February 18, 2010 - 8:26am

Thank you Pat and Diane, for your insights. I fear that because exercise is free it won't be valued. But to know that adding physical activity to our week could reduce our risk of so many cancers is really empowering. Also, the head of the Arizona Cancer Center believes that they can reduce the recurrence rate of ovarian cancer with exercise and nutrition. Pretty compelling stuff.

February 16, 2010 - 2:53pm


This is encouraging information, to know that even moderate exercise helps reduce the risk of this cancer as well. Especially since, as you say, it is such an aggressive cancer. Thanks for another informative, thoughtful post. I'm putting on my walking shoes now.

February 16, 2010 - 10:05am
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Annette - The recently announced White House campaign to deal with childhood obesity will hopefully instill good habits in young people, including regular exercise, that will be helpful in cancer prevention. Thanks for this information. Take care, Pat

February 15, 2010 - 5:11pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.