Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumor that begins in a woman’s ovaries, two almond-sized organs located on each side of the pelvis that produce eggs and are the main source of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. In ovarian cancer, ovarian cells grow out of control and form a tumor. Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women after cancers of the lung, breast, colon, and pancreas. About 23,000 women are diagnosed with the disease each year, and 14,000 die from it -- a relatively high fatality rate caused by the failure to catch many cases early. Women in the sunnier regions of the world have a much lower risk of ovarian cancer than those who dwell in colder climates. Perhaps sun exposure -- and, more precisely, vitamin D production in the body -- help prevent ovarian cancer? Obese women have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than their thinner counterparts.
Nutrients that may be helpful for ovarian
by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Women who eat plenty of vegetables, particularly carrots, tomatoes and other foods high in carotene and lycopene may reduce their risk. Flavonoids are found in fruits and vegetables. One flavonoid that has been studied is Apigenin. Tea drinkers have a lower rate of ovarian cancer.
Genistein is an isoflavone that looks promising in fighting ovarian cancer.
We studied the effect of genistein and daidzein on ovarian cancer cell growth. Five ovarian cancer cell lines from Stage IIIC disease were evaluated. Sulforhodamine B and colony formation assays were used to analyze growth inhibitory effects of genistein and daidzein alone and with cisplatin, paclitaxel or topotecan. Apoptosis induction was studied by determining caspase-3 activity. Inhibition of growth (50-80%), colony formation and colony size was seen at 144 microm of genistein, 0-23% reduction was demonstrated at 9 microm. At 144 microm, the colony size was inhibited >75%; at 9 microm 4/5 cell lines had >50% reduction. Caspase-3 activity was induced with all concentrations of genistein. Cisplatin and topotecan combined with genistein resulted in a mostly additive effect, paclitaxel was slightly less than additive. We demonstrate an inhibitory effect of genistein on ovarian cancer cell growth. Anticancer Res. 2004 Mar-Apr. Inhibitory effect of genistein and daidzein on ovarian cancer cell growth.
Ginkgo biloba has potential, too.
Studies conducted in women and in the laboratory strongly suggest that the herbal supplement Ginkgo biloba may help lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer. In a population-based study involving more than 600 women with ovarian cancer and 640 healthy control women, researchers found that the most commonly used herbals were ginkgo, Echinacea, St. John's Wort, ginseng, and chondroitin. But only ginkgo appeared to ward off ovarian cancer. According to the data, women who took ginkgo supplements had a 60 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer.
Ginger can kill ovarian cancer cells.
A study on ginger was done using cells in a lab dish, which is a long way from finding that it works in actual cancer patients. Researchers tested ginger powder dissolved in solution by putting it on ovarian cancer cell cultures. Ginger killed the ovarian cancer cells in two different ways -- through a self-destruction process called apoptosis and through autophagy in which cells digest themselves. Ginger spice has been shown to help control inflammation, which can contribute to the development of ovarian cancer cells. In multiple ovarian cancer cell lines, ginger induced cell death at a similar or better rate than the platinum-based chemotherapy drugs typically used to treat ovarian cancer. Whether the same effects of ginger in test tubes occurs when humans consume ginger is not known.
Vitamin D's role in this condition is not clear.
Dr. Dr. Linda S. Cook of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque says there isn't enough evidence to back or debunk the claim that vitamin D can help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, despite several recent studies making this claim. Dr. Dr. Linda S. Cook continues, "Based on the current evidence, it is premature to make any definitive claims for or against the role of vitamin D in ovarian cancer, nevertheless, because an association between vitamin D and the disease is biologically plausible, and there were problems with the studies that we reviewed, this is an area worthy of further primary research." American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2010.
Woman who drink two or more cups of tea every day may cut their risk of ovarian cancer in half. Both black and green teas are rich in antioxidant chemicals called polyphenols, which have been shown to block cancer growth in lab and animal studies. To investigate whether tea drinking might protect against ovarian cancer, 61,057 women - ranging in age from 40 to 76 - participating in a mammography screening program were followed for an average of 15 years. Compared with women who never drank tea, those who drank less than a cup a day had an 18-percent lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. One cup daily cut risk by 24 percent, while two or more cups lowered risk by 46 percent. Tea drinkers were thinner and ate more fruits and vegetables, the researchers report, so they may have had a healthier overall lifestyle that led to reduced ovarian cancer risk. Nevertheless, investigators add, the fact that risk declined steadily as tea consumption increased-known scientifically as a dose-response relationship-suggests the tea itself is a factor. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2005.
After following more than 60,000 women for an average of 13 years, Swedish researchers found that those who drank at least two glasses of milk every day or consumed at least four daily servings of dairy products were twice as likely to develop serous epithelial ovarian cancer as those who consumed less than two servings of dairy a day.
Women who eat a lot of processed meats, such as salami and hot dogs, are at a higher risk. Those who eat a lot of fish have a lower risk of the deadly tumors. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.
Dr. Maria Rossi, of Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche "Mario Negri" in Milan found that women who ate the most isoflavones and flavonols were the least likely to have ovarian cancer. Lab studies suggest flavonoids may also have cancer fighting properties in addition to their antioxidant effects. The researchers compared flavonoid intake for 1,031 women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer and 2,411 women who had been hospitalized for acute, non-cancer-related conditions, categorizing them into five groups based on their intake of each of six different flavonoids. The women with the highest flavonol intake were less likely to have ovarian cancer than women with the lowest flavonol intake. High intake of isoflavones cut ovarian cancer risk by half. Isoflavones are found in tea and soy foods, both of which have been linked to a lower ovarian cancer risk, possibly due to isoflavones' estrogen-blocking effects. International Journal of Cancer 2008.
Moderate physical activity may help women lower their chances of developing ovarian cancer. A possible explanation for the beneficial effects is enhancement of the immune and antioxidant systems, and lower risk of obesity. Too much exercise may cause immune suppression.
Estrogen and ovarian cancer
Hormone use increases risk. There's an increased risk of ovarian cancer risk with postmenopausal estrogen use. The risk of ovarian cancer is increased in women who use unopposed estrogen for 10 years or more, and in those taking estrogen and progestin for 5 years or more. Women who have endometriosis have are more likely to have ovarian cancer in the future.
No matter how hormone replacement therapy is
given, it increases the risk of ovarian cancer. Journal of the American
Medical Association, July 15, 2009.
Symptoms and sign
Ovarian cancer, called the silent killer because it often goes undetected, does present with symptoms. Symptoms of ovarian cancer to look out for include: A bloated abdomen, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, pelvic pain and an urgent need to urinate, which some associate with menstruation, especially if the symptoms are severe, frequent and simultaneous, and last more than 2 or 3 weeks. The importance of early diagnosis is illustrated in five-year survival rates that approach 90 percent if the disease is caught early versus 20 percent if diagnosed after it has progressed. Vague symptoms (reported by noncancerous women are less severe and less frequent when compared with women with ovarian cancer. Women with ovarian cancer typically have symptoms of recent onset and have multiple symptoms that coexist.
Abdominal swelling, pain, and other target symptoms are common in the months before ovarian cancer is diagnosed. Some patients with ovarian cancer do report signs and symptoms many months before their ultimate diagnosis, and some ovarian cancer patients could have had an earlier diagnosis if pelvic imaging was included in their workup.
There are three main types of ovarian tumors – some of which are benign and some are malignant -- named for the kind of cells they start from. The most common type of tumor, an epithelial tumor, begins in the cells that cover the surface of the ovary. Ovarian tumors can also begin in the egg-producing cells (germ cell tumors) and in the supportive tissue surrounding the ovaries (stromal tumors), but these types of cancer are rare. Cells from an ovarian tumor can break away and spread to other parts of the body.
Ovarian cancer treatment
Although surgery followed by paclitaxel / carboplatin (TJ) therapy is a standard modality for the initial treatment of ovarian cancer, the majority of patients require additional treatment.
Family history is the strongest risk factor for ovarian cancer.
Annual screening with a technique called transvaginal ultrasound, coupled with a blood test for CA125, a protein that can be elevated in the setting of ovarian cancer, does not reliably detect ovarian cancer early at a more curable stage and do not lower the death rate from the disease.
Annual screening with ultrasound and a blood test called CA 125 usually misses early cases of ovarian cancer. In addition, ovarian cancer screening often leads to unnecessary biopsies and other surgical procedures. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends against such screening. Early-stage ovarian cancer often has only mild or no symptoms. Because results of early screening to detect this cancer in the early stage is not precise, it is usually diagnosed after it has progressed and become more deadly.
For a woman who undergoes hysterectomy for benign disease such as fibroids, leaving both ovaries in place has long-term survival benefits, at least if she is no older than 65 years and at average risk for ovarian cancer. Ovary removal is often recommended along with hysterectomy, on the thinking that it prevents the possibility of ovarian cancer developing. However, women who undergo ovary removal before age 55 are nearly 9 percent more likely to die before age 80. Those who have their ovaries removed before age 59 have a nearly 4 percent high risk. Gynecologists who have been looking at the issue of (ovary removal) have focused on one thing -- ovarian cancer. Women are living longer and the major killer of women is heart disease, taking 25 times more women's lives than ovarian cancer.
Association of dietary vitamin A, carotenoids, and other antioxidants with the risk of ovarian cancer.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005.
Antioxidants may protect the ovaries from oxidative damage and reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Dietary vitamin A and beta-carotene are modestly protective against ovarian cancer, particularly among smokers.
Ovarian cancer natural treatment questions
I am attending Santiago High School in Corona, CA. I am currently doing a research paper and I chose as my topic ovarian cancer and soon became interested by the information i gathered on how it is currently being tested and treated with ginkgo. What causes ovarian cancer? How do you feel about using herbs such as ginkgo for the treatment or prevention of ovarian cancer verses using chemotherapy?
Ovarian cancer is caused by genetics, hormonal factors, the types of food people eat over a lifetime, lack of exercise, potential environmental toxins and probably other factors that are not yet fully clear. Ginkgo biloba is not a treatment for ovarian cancer, but rather may lower the risk but more studies are needed to confirm this. For the time being, a woman with ovarian cancer should follow accepted medical practice since the role of nutritional treatment is not well investigated.
I am a medical doctor. My patient was diagnosed with a
very early ovarian cancer. The cancer was limited to one ovary only which was
removed intact. Now she wants alternative treatment, after rejecting a possible
chemotherapy . What would you suggest. She is on antioxidants. She is 49, and I
she is trying to stop smoking.
I am not in a position to offer individual suggestions to treat cancer of the ovary, but perhaps some of the research information on the page will help.
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Polycystic ovary syndrome or disease.