PTSD may enhance the odds of ovarian cancer

A new study has found a link between PTSD and the risk of ovarian cancer. It has shown that PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) can lead to an increase in the odds of ovarian cancer. The journal “Cancer Research” has presented this study, on September 05, 2019.

Women with PTSD have a two-fold increase in the risk of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest gynecological cancers. And among the U.S. women, it is the fifth most common cause of cancer-linked deaths. As it is difficult to detect ovarian cancer in early stages, it is termed as a silent killer. And it has become necessary to identify persons at risk for prevention or early treatment.

The research team has compared women who had six or more symptoms of PTSD at some point in their life with those who never had these symptoms. The symptoms of PTSD may include avoiding reminders of trauma or getting startled by ordinary noises.

The analysis has shown that women with symptoms had a two-time increase in the risk of this cancer. And the risk was present even decades after a traumatic event. These results have stressed the need for further study to check if curing PTSD can reduce the odds of ovarian cancer. And also, check if other types of stress can act as a risk factor for such cancers.

In the animal models, the studies have shown that stress hormones can speed up the growth of tumors in ovaries. Moreover, long term stress can result in tumors that are larger and more invasive. A prior study in humans has also found the relation between PTSD and cancer in ovaries.

But this study had a small sample size and involved only seven women with PTSD and ovarian cancer. The Nurses’ Health Study II has tracked the data of tens of thousands of women from 1989 – 2015 by using medical records and questionnaires. The study has used this data for a better understanding that how PTSD may affect the risk of cancer in ovaries.

Related: What are the most common cancers in women?

Number of PTSD symptoms and the chances of ovarian cancer

In 2008, 54,763 women from Nurses’ Health Study has provided info about traumatic events at any point in their life. And the symptoms linked to these events. Later, these women have also identified the event that was most stressful for them. And have also told about the year of the event and the seven symptoms of PTSD related to it.

Based on the data collected, the research team has divided them into six groups. That is no trauma exposure; trauma without PTSD symptoms; trauma with 1 – 3 symptoms; trauma with 4 – 5 symptoms; trauma with 6 – 7 symptoms; and trauma, but PTSD symptoms are not known. After this, the team has adjusted various confounding factors.

That includes smoking and the use of oral contraceptives. The results of the study have shown that women with 6 – 7 symptoms of PTSD have a significantly higher risk of ovarian cancer than those with no trauma. The women with trauma and 4 -5 symptoms of PTSD were also at an increased risk. But this risk had no statistical significance.

While women with 6 -7 symptoms related to PTSD had a significantly higher chance of high-grade serous histotype of ovarian cancer. That is the most aggressive and common form of this disease. In short, ovarian cancer has only a few risk factors, like PTSD or depression. And in the future, validation of these factors in other populations can help doctors identify women with a higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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