PTSD Increases Ovarian Cancer Risk, Study Claims

Health News: Harvard researchers found that women who experienced six or more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in life had a 2-fold greater risk of developing ovarian cancer compared with women who never had any PTSD symptoms.

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic issue and is also known as the silent killer because it goes undetected in its early stages. To prevent or start earlier treatment it is important to identify specific women who may be at increased risk for developing the disease.

Researchers analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, which tracked the health of tens of thousands of women between 1989 and 2015 through biennial questionnaires and medical records. Participants were asked about ovarian cancer diagnosis on each questionnaire, and information was validated through a review of medical records. The supplemental questionnaire focused on lifetime traumatic events and symptoms associated with those events. Women were asked about seven PTSD symptoms they may have experienced related to the most stressful event in their lives

Based on responses, women were classified into six groups: trauma and no PTSD symptoms; no trauma exposure; trauma and 1-3 symptoms; trauma and 4-5 symptoms; trauma and 6-7 symptoms; and trauma, but PTSD symptoms unknown. Out of all the groups, the researchers found that women who experienced 6-7 symptoms associated with PTSD were at a significantly higher risk for ovarian cancer. Also this group of women were significantly higher risk of developing the high-grade serous histotype of ovarian cancer — the most common and aggressive form of the disease.

“In light of these findings, we need to understand whether successful treatment of PTSD would reduce this risk, and whether other types of stress are also risk factors for ovarian cancer,” said co-author Andrea Roberts, research scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

To Know More You May Refer To:

Roberts, A. L., Huang, T., Koenen, K. C., Kim, Y., Kubzansky, L. D., & Tworoger, S. S. (2019). Posttraumatic stress disorder is associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer: A prospective and retrospective longitudinal cohort study. Cancer Research, 79(19), 5113-5120. https://doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.can-19-1222

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