According to a new study published Thursday in the journal Cancer Research, women who have the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who had no PTSD symptoms.
Researchers from Moffitt Cancer Center and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health think that prolonged stress may hasten ovarian tumor growth, resulting in more invasive and larger tumors.
The researchers said that the findings suggest that the severity of PTSD symptoms can be associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer and the risk remained high even after decades of experiencing a traumatic event.
Ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly gynecologic conditions, which is difficult to detect in early stages.
Study co-author Dr. Laura Kubzansky said, “Ovarian cancer has been called a ‘silent killer’ because it is difficult to detect in its early stages. Therefore, identifying more specifically who may be at increased risk for developing the disease is important for prevention or earlier treatment.”
The study also found that the potential link between the ovarian cancer risk and PTSD is for the most aggressive types of ovarian cancer.
Study co-author Dr. Andrea Roberts said, “In light of these findings, we need to understand whether successful treatment of PTSD would reduce this risk, and whether other types of stress are also risk factors for ovarian cancer.”
Currently, there are relatively few risk factors associated with ovarian cancer. The study researchers opine that looking out for PTSD symptoms and other psychological disturbances such as depression and anxiety may help prevent ovarian cancer. Dr. Roberts added, “If confirmed in other populations, this could be one factor that doctors could consider when determining if a woman is at high risk of ovarian cancer in the future.”