Awareness: Risk Factors
Anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Although certain factors increase a woman's risk for developing gynecologic cancer, they do not always cause the disease.
Most gynecologic cancers develop in post-menopausal women (after age 60), though some cancers can strike women at much younger ages.
Certain fertility drugs that failed to result in pregnancy may increase risk. DES, an estrogen drug (diethylstilbestrol) taken during pregnancy puts daughters at risk for a rare form of cervical and vaginal cancer. Tamoxifen increases risk.
If a family history of gynecologic or breast cancer exists, women may want to consider being tested since those found to carry certain genes known to cause gynecologic cancers are at greater risk.
- Reproductive history
Early onset of menstruation (before age 12), having no children or having a first child after age 30, and/or experiencing menopause after age 50 are risk indicators.
A high-fat diet and obesity increase risk for endometrial cancer, especially for people with Type I diabetes.
Sex before age 18, sleeping with numerous partners, or having a partner with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), such as HIV, or being a smoker all can increase one's gynecologic cancer risk.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Endometrial and ovarian cancer risk is increased with the prolonged use of HRT or estrogen replacement therapy (ERT).