Women with post-traumatic stress disorder may be at higher risk for ovarian cancer

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Published: November, 2019

Could a traumatic experience raise the risk of ovarian cancer? Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Moffitt Cancer Center found that women who remembered experiencing six or more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had double the risk of later developing ovarian cancer, compared with women who had not reported PTSD symptoms. They were also more likely to develop a more aggressive form of the cancer. The researchers looked at data from more than 50,000 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study II. Early in the study, women were asked to identify their most stressful life experience and any PTSD symptoms they had experienced following that event. Researchers then looked to see which of the women went on to develop ovarian cancer. The study, published Sept. 5 in Cancer Research, found higher cancer risk persisted even if a woman's PTSD symptoms had occurred decades in the past. Past animal research suggests that stress hormones may spur tumor growth.

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