Women Who Suffer From PTSD Are Twice as Likely as Other Women to Develop Ovarian Cancer

A new study led by researchers at the School of Public Health at Harvard University finds that women who experienced six or more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in life had a twofold greater risk of developing ovarian cancer compared with women who never had any PTSD symptoms.

The findings indicate that having higher levels of PTSD symptoms, such as being easily startled by ordinary noises or avoiding reminders of the traumatic experience, can be associated with increased risks of ovarian cancer even decades after women experience a traumatic event.

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic cancer and the fifth-most-common cause of cancer-related death among U.S. women. Studies in animal models have shown that stress and stress hormones can accelerate ovarian tumor growth, and that chronic stress can result in larger and more invasive tumors.

“Ovarian cancer has been called a ‘silent killer’ because it is difficult to detect in its early stages; therefore identifying more specifically who may be at increased risk for developing the disease is important for prevention or earlier treatment,” said Laura Kubzansky, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard and a co-author of the study.

“Ovarian cancer has relatively few known risk factors — PTSD and other forms of distress, like depression, may represent a novel direction in ovarian cancer prevention research,” added Shelley Tworoger, associate director of population science at the Moffitt Cancer Center at the University of South Florida and a co-author of the study.

The full study, “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Is Associated With Increased Risk of Ovarian Cancer: A Prospective and Retrospective Longitudinal Cohort Study,” was published on the website of the journal Cancer Research. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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