Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is the leading cause of gynecological cancer deaths, although it accounts for only about one-quarter of all gynecological malignancies (1,2). A woman's lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is about 1 in 70. In the year 2004, the American Cancer Society estimated that 25,580 women would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States, and that 16,090 would die of this disease (3).

Although, the etiology of ovarian cancer is unknown, many associated risk factors have been identified (Table 1). Chief among these is the family history of the disease. In 1966, Lynch et al. (4) first suggested that hereditary factors contributed to a woman's risk for developing ovarian cancer. Since that time, several case-control studies (5-7) have noted an increase in risk for ovarian cancer in case of a family history of ovarian cancer as well as a personal history of breast cancer. Schildkraut and Thompson (7) examined 493 women with newly diagnosed EOC in comparison with 2465 controls. The odds ratios for ovarian cancer in first- and second-degree relatives were 3.6 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.8-7.1) and 2.9 (95% CI 1.6-5.3), respectively. As compared with women with no family history of ovarian cancer, indicating a familial clustering of ovarian cancer cases. Similarly, a large meta-analysis performed by Stratton et al. (8), which included nearly 18,000 women showed the relative risk of ovarian cancer for women with a first-degree relative with ovarian cancer to be 3.1 (95% CI 2.6-3.7).

From: Current Clinical Oncology: Molecular Pathology of Gynecologic Cancer Edited by: A. Giordano, A. Bovicelli, and R. Kurman © Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ

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