Can You Get Ovarian Cancer after Tubal Ligation?

Last Editorial Review: 10/13/2017

Ask the expert

Can you get ovarian cancer after tubal ligation?

Doctor's response

The short answer to this question is yes, you can still get ovarian cancer after tubal ligation (tubes tied). The longer answer is a little more complicated. Research has indicated that tubal ligation may reduce a woman's lifetime risk of ovarian cancer up to about 50% in those patients that undergo tubal ligation (also termed salpingectomy) before the age of 35.

Ovarian cancer is relatively uncommon and usually diagnosed in the later stages of the disease. Only about 1 to 2% of women will ever develop ovarian cancer; however, it is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women.

So how does tubal ligation decrease a woman's risk of ovarian cancer? The answer to this question is that many of the types of ovarian cancers originate in the fallopian tubes. If the fallopian tubes are blocked off by tubal ligation, the risk of potential cancer cells moving from the fallopian tubes to the ovary is reduced or eliminated. The risk, though, is reduced as much as 50%. This risk level is still only cut in half because not all very cancers first developed in fallopian tubes. Some develop outside of fallopian tubes and thus are not blocked in reaching the ovary even if the fallopian tubes are tied off.

About 10 to 15% of women that develop ovarian cancer have a familial/genetic factor that increases the risk of ovarian cancer. Other risk factors include obesity, estrogen therapy, the history of breast cancer, and age (older women have a higher risk of ovarian cancer).

Preventative factors that may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer are as follows:

Even with oophorectomy, there is still small risk of ovarian cancer development because some very cancers develop outside of the uterus.

For more information, read our full medical article on ovarian cancer symptoms, signs, treatment, and prognosis.

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"Do tubal ligation and salpingectomy protect against ovarian cancer?"
Kovacs, P.
Medscape, 6/22/2017