Menstrual and reproductive factors in relation to ovarian cancer risk

L. Titus-Ernstoff, K. Perez, D. W. Cramer, B. L. Harlow, J. A. Baron, E. R. Greenberg

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138 Scopus citations


We assessed menstrual and reproductive factors in relation to ovarian cancer risk in a large, population-based, case-control study. 563 cases in Massachusetts and New Hampshire were ascertained from hospitals and statewide tumour registries; control women (n = 523) were selected through random digit dialing and matched to case women by age and telephone sampling unit. We used multivariate logistic regression to evaluate factors in relation to risk of ovarian cancer and the major tumour histologic subtypes. Ovarian cancer risk was reduced among parous women, relative to nulliparous women (OR = 0.4; 95% CI = 0.3-0.6). Among parous women, higher parity (P = 0.0006), increased age at first (P= 0.03) or last (P = 0.05) birth, and time since last birth (P = 0.04) were associated with reduced risk. Early pregnancy losses, abortions, and stillbirths were unrelated to risk, but preterm, term, and twin births were protective. Risk was lower among women who had breast-fed, relative to those who had not (OR = 0.7; 95% CI = 0.5-1.0), but the average duration of breast-feeding per child was unrelated to risk (P for trend = 0.21). Age at menarche and age at menopause were unrelated to risk overall, although increasing menarcheal age was protective among premenopausal women (P = 0.02). Menstrual cycle characteristics and symptoms were generally unrelated to risk, although cycle-related insomnia was associated with decreased risk (OR = 0.5; 95% CI = 0.3-0.8). We found no association between the type of sanitary product used during menstruation and ovarian cancer risk. In analyses by histologic subtype, reproductive and menstrual factors had most effect on risk of endometrioid/clear cell tumours, and least influential with regard to risk of mucinous tumours. Overall, our findings offer some support to current hypotheses of ovarian pathogenesis, and show aetiologic differences among the tumour subtypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)714-721
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Bernard Cole for statistical advice and personnel at both study centres for their commitment to this project. Most of all, we thank the study participants, whose generosity made this research possible. Supported by grant number R01 CA54419 from the National Cancer Institute.


  • Menstrual cycles
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Reproductive factors


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