Breastfeeding, Birth Control Pills May Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk Among Women with BRCA Gene Mutations

(May 16, 2014) Breastfeeding, tubal ligation – also known as having one’s “tubes tied” – and oral contraceptives may lower the risk of ovarian cancer for some women with BRCA gene mutations, according to a comprehensive analysis from a team at the University of Pennsylvania’s Basser Research Center for BRCA. The Basser Research Center for BRCA was established with a gift from OCRF Board member Mindy Gray, and her husband Jon.

The findings, a meta-analysis of 44 existing peer-reviewed studies, are published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The researchers, from Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, found that breastfeeding and tubal ligation are associated with reduced rates of ovarian cancer in BRCA1 mutation carriers, and the use of oral contraceptives is associated with a reduced risk of ovarian cancer in patients with BRCA1 or BRCA 2 mutations. The analysis also helped better define factors that may increase risk among this population: Smoking, for instance, may raise the risk of breast cancer for patients with a BRCA2 mutation.

Though researchers cautioned that more data are required before definitive conclusions about these variables can be made, the findings help to shed light on non-surgical risk reduction options for women who may not be ready to undergo prophylactic removal of their ovaries to cut their cancer risk.

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