In a new study, researchers found women who experienced more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who never had any PTSD symptoms.
The study also found that the link between PTSD and ovarian cancer remained for the most aggressive forms of ovarian cancer.
The research was conducted by a team from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Moffitt Cancer Center.
Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic cancer and the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death among U.S. women.
It 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.
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.
A prior study found an association between PTSD and ovarian cancer in humans, but the study included only seven women with ovarian cancer and PTSD.
To better understand how PTSD may influence ovarian cancer risk, the 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.
Women were asked to identify the event they considered the most stressful, and the year of this event.
They were also asked about seven PTSD symptoms they may have experienced related to the most stressful event.
The researchers found that women who experienced 6-7 symptoms associated with PTSD were at a much higher risk for ovarian cancer than women who had never been exposed to trauma.
The study also showed that women who experienced 6-7 PTSD symptoms were at a much higher risk of developing the high-grade serous histotype of ovarian cancer—the most common and aggressive form of the disease.
The team says 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,
The study is published in Cancer Research.
Copyright © 2019 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.