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Epithelial ovarian cancer: testing the 'androgens hypothesis'.

Endocrine Related Cancer
Publication Date
  • Medicine


In 1998, Risch proposed a hypothesis for the pathogenesis of ovarian cancer relating to the role of androgens in stimulating epithelial cell proliferation. Although this hypothesis has been widely discussed, direct evidence to support it is scant. To address this issue, we have conducted a detailed analysis of factors possibly associated with high circulating levels of androgens, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hirsutism and acne (all clinically associated with hyperandrogenism) using the data collected in an Australia-wide, population-based case-control study. Cases aged 18-79 years with a new diagnosis of invasive epithelial ovarian cancer (n=1276) or borderline malignant tumour (n=315) were identified through a network of clinics and cancer registries throughout Australia. Controls (n=1508) were selected from the National Electoral Roll. Women self-reported a history of PCOS, acne, hirsutism and also use of testosterone supplements or the androgenic medication Danazol. We found no evidence that a history of PCOS, acne or hirsutism was associated with ovarian cancer overall, or with specific subtypes, with the exception of serous borderline tumours that were positively associated with a history of PCOS (OR 2.6; 95% CI 1.0-6.1). Women who had ever used testosterone supplements had an increased risk of ovarian cancer (OR 3.7; 95% CI 1.1-12.0); however, use of the androgenic medication Danazol did not increase risk (OR 1.0; 95% CI 0.4-2.9). Overall, our results do not support the hypothesis that androgen-related disorders increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

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