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Hormonal treatments and epithelial ovarian cancer risk


Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Seija Grénman, MD, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Turku University Hospital, PB 52, FIN-20521 Turku, Finland. Email:


Abstract.  Auranen A, Hietanen S, Salmi T, Grénman S. Hormonal treatments and epithelial ovarian cancer risk. Int J Gynecol Cancer 2005;15:692–700.

Exogenous sex hormones are widely used by women either for pregnancy prevention, as part of infertility treatment, or for treatment of menopausal symptoms. The role of these hormones in the development of ovarian cancer has been vastly explored. The protective effect of combined oral contraceptive pill is confirmed in multiple studies, but it is not clear whether this protection also covers women with a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer. There is no conclusive evidence of infertility treatments increasing ovarian cancer risk, but infertility as such is a risk factor. Currently available data suggest that long-term users of hormone replacement therapy may have a slightly increased risk for ovarian cancer compared to women who have never used estrogen. The risk might particularly involve the endometrioid type of ovarian cancer. Most data on ovarian cancer and estrogen comes from epidemiological studies, since the normally high concentrations of estrogens in ovarian tissue and follicular fluid make direct biologic studies on the effects of exogenous estrogens on the ovarian cell difficult. This review discusses the risk of ovarian cancer associated with the use of sex steroid hormones, with special emphasis on the possible risk associated with estrogens.