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Ovary Removal Linked to Increased Lung Cancer Risk

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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/healt ... cer&st=cse


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July 25, 2009

Ovary Removal Linked to Increased Lung Cancer Risk


Women who undergo hysterectomies often have both ovaries removed along with the uterus in order to prevent ovarian cancer. But a new study suggests ovary removal may increase the risk of another seemingly unrelated ailment, lung cancer.

University of Montreal scientists stumbled onto the connection while investigating the relationship between lung cancer and hormones in women. They found no relationship between hormonal factors like menstruation patterns, child-bearing or breast-feeding histories and the risk of lung cancer. The researchers did, however, discover that women whose menopause had been induced medically were at 1.92 times greater risk of developing lung cancer than women who had experienced natural menopause.

“We were surprised — we had no prior expectation of this finding,” said Anita Koushik, a researcher at the University of Montreal’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and the first author of the study, published online in May in The International Journal of Cancer. “Aside from the fact that smoking increases your risk of lung cancer, the results of this study suggest that having a non-natural menopause contributes to an almost doubling of the risk.” She noted, though, that the findings could have occurred by chance.

The vast majority of women who had experienced a non-natural menopause had had both ovaries surgically removed, she added.

While smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, other factors may play a role in enhancing the impact of the carcinogens in tobacco, Dr. Koushik said. In women, these factors could be hormonal. Both normal and cancerous lung tissue express estrogen receptors and may be influenced by levels of the hormone in the body, Dr. Koushik said. The patterns of expression are different in men and in women.

Medically induced menopause usually occurs at a younger age than natural menopause. Surgical menopause results in a sudden drop in estrogen levels, compared with the more gradual decline in hormone levels that occurs with natural menopause. Dr. Koushik suggested the increased lung cancer risk may be linked to the impact of plummeting hormone levels.

In the study, the scientists examined data on 422 women diagnosed with lung cancer in the greater Montreal area in 1996 and 1997 and compared them with 577 randomly selected control subjects. The women were asked about a variety of hormone-related factors, including when they got their first periods, how many children they had, whether they breast-fed their children and whether they had gone through menopause. The researchers also gathered detailed information about smoking, occupational history, education and family income.

The report is not the first to link ovary removal with an increased risk of lung cancer. A recent analysis of data from the Nurses’ Health Study, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology in May, reported that women who had had hysterectomies but kept their ovaries lived longer than women who had had the procedure but whose ovaries were removed.

While those who had their ovaries removed were less likely to develop breast cancer and virtually eliminated their risk of ovarian cancer, they were more prone to heart disease and were at greater risk for other kinds of cancer, including a doubling of the risk for lung cancer among those women who never used hormone therapy.

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(New York Times, Global Edition, Health, Article by Roni Caryn Rabin, July 24, 2009)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not being posted with the intention of being medical advice of any kind.

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So, if I hadn't had hormone therapy after removal of my ovaries, my lung cancer risk would have been double?! Here I was factoring in 10 years of estrogen pills as a contributor. I am so confused. Maybe I better try giving up on rationalizing this experience.

And thanks for posting all these stories - I may be confused, but at least I have some idea of what current thinking is being is published. Do you use a RSS (?) feed or google alert to catch all these pieces?

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I agree with ts that all the conflicting info is very confusing. I had a hysterectomy when I was 42 but kept one damaged (by endometriosis) ovary. I would say it was only about 5 yrs later that the GYN couldn't find it. I was on estrogen for years and then only a couple of years before my dx a doc took me off it because if the increased risk of breast cancer. I have no know incidence of breast cancer in my family but do have lung cancer in the family. dang. And I was pretty pissed at the time when she took away my Estrogen.

Judy in Key West

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Hi ts and Judy,

Yes, ts, these articles can result in a bit of confusion. :?

Judy, I had a pan hysterectomy (due to endometriosis) when I was 35. The endometriosis covered ovaries, and intestines. Prior to the hysterectomy, I had experienced surgery to remove it at age 32. It returned, and thus, the complete removal of uterus and ovaries. :cry:

No hormone replacement was advised. As it turned out, years later my sister had breast cancer (now, her daughter is fighting it).

Of course, now it is possible (according to the article) that my heart disease is from lack of those hormones, and my angst about lung cancer has been heightened.

Ts, I didn't google, but that is a good way to gather the latest news. What happens with me mostly is that the articles arrive in my email box. I signed up years ago for the latest in news items on lung cancer. Many sites send them to me.

Of course, they send me breast, lung and every other cancer and I find myself reading all about treatments for those things, too.

Our son, who lives in NY, called me to direct me to the NYTimes articles. Any that he reads relative to lung cancer, he tries to email and let me know.


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Sorry about the language, but I had a hysterectomy with both ovaries removed 5 1/2 years ago when I was 45. Endometriosis--my doctor said it was as bad as he had ever seen it. Like you Barbara, ovaries, intestines, everything in there COVERED with it. No hormones for me either. I white knuckled through the menopause.

Oh well, If I had it to do over again I would because I was in so much pain.


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I would do it over again, as well. The pain was excruciating. Finally, it became a case of an obstruction involving my colon. Had to do it - no choice.

Completed menopause in two years without anything to ease it. Kept telling myself, "Would you rather have the pain?" It was a great motivator.

It's a bummer for sure, but sometimes, there is no other avenue.


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