Women with PTSD Symptoms Have a Higher Risk of Ovarian Cancer

By Cancer Nursing Today Editors - Last Updated: October 18, 2019

Women with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, according to researchers who published their findings in the journal Cancer Research.

“Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic cancer. Chronic stress accelerates tumor growth in animal models of ovarian cancer. We therefore postulated that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer,” the authors wrote in their abstract.

To conduct this study, they utilized data previously collected from the Nurses’ Health Study II, which was a longitudinal cohort study that took place from over 26 years from 1989-2015, with lifetime PTSD symptoms measured in 2008, and comprised of 54,710 subjects in total. Self-reported ovarian cancer was validated with medical records, while the risk of developing ovarian cancer was estimated with Cox proportional hazards models and further adjusted for known ovarian cancer risk factors such as hormonal changes and health risk factors such as smoking. Fully prospective secondary analyses examined incident ovarian cancer occurring after PTSD assessment in 2008. Additionally, the researchers assessed the link between PTSD and ovarian cancer by menopausal status.

Twice the Risk Among Women with Trauma

According to the results of the study, during the follow-up period, the researchers observed 110 ovarian cancer cases, and women with high PTSD symptoms had a two-fold greater risk of ovarian cancer when compared to women with no trauma exposure (age-adjusted hazard ratio (HR)=2.10, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.12 to 3.95). Moreover, the researchers found that adjustment for health- and ovarian-cancer risk factors moderately reduced this correlation (HR=1.86, 95% CI, 0.98 to 3.51). Additionally, associations were similar or moderately higher in fully prospective analyses (age-adjusted HR=2.38, 95% CI, 0.98 to 5.76, N cases=50) and in premenopausal women (HR=3.42, 95% CI, 1.08 to 10.85).

The authors wrote of their findings that: “In conclusion, we show that PTSD symptoms are associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer. Better understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms could lead to interventions that reduce ovarian cancer risk in women with PTSD and other stress-related mental disorders.”

Post Tags:Ovarian Cancer