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Study Suggests that Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Increases Ovarian Cancer Risk

Jamie Lipeles';

By Jamie Lipeles

Posted on October 10th, 2019 in Gynecology

PTSD Increases Ovarian Cancer RiskOvarian cancer is the fifth major cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States and hence also known as the deadliest of the gynecological cancers.

It has been a ‘silent killer’ as it is often difficult to detect it during early stages and therefore it becomes important to know who specifically is at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer so that earlier treatment may be planned.

According to a recent research study, women with high levels of stress hormones in their bodies are likely to be at an increased risk of ovarian cancer than those who do not have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The research was published in a medical journal, Cancer Research on September 5, 2019.  A study conducted before also found an association between PTSD and ovarian tumors in humans but it included only 7 women with PTSD and ovarian cancer.

An Association between PTSD and Ovarian Cancer Was Established through the Retrospective Longitudinal Study

During the study, the data from more than 54,700 women in the United States were analyzed by the researchers. The participants of the study were a part of the Nurses’ Health Study that was conducted between 1989 and 2015. Once in two years, the participants were asked regarding their ovarian cancer diagnosis and from the year 2008, the study participants were enquired if they had any traumatic event experiences and symptoms of PTSD related to it. They were asked to list out seven PTSD symptoms that they experienced after the most stressful event. During these years of follow-up, 110 women had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and most of them had six or seven higher levels of symptoms of PTSD. The researchers concluded that women with six to seven symptoms associated with PTSD were at a significantly high risk of developing ovarian cancer with high-grade serous histotype, the most aggressive form than women who had never been exposed to trauma.

It was hypothesized by the lead researcher of the study that the stress hormones act upon the cancer cells directly leading to their more invasive and faster growth. According to the researchers, chronic stress could also interfere with the body’s ability to get rid of cancer cells.

The study also suggested that it was possible to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by treating the symptoms of PTSD. The data also indicated that women who no longer had PTSD were at less risk of developing ovarian cancer than women with active symptoms of PTSD. Therefore, successful treatment for PTSD can be helpful in reducing the risk of ovarian cancer. Additionally, PTSD could be a factor that doctors need to consider while determining whether a woman is at a high risk of ovarian cancer in the future.