Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer graphicFind out more about ovarian cancer, including how common it is and ways to reduce your risk.

On this page

> Ovarian cancer statistics
> What is ovarian cancer?
> Who’s at risk?
> Risk factors
> How to reduce your risk

How common is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women in the UK. In 2019, 6,959 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer*.

What is ovarian cancer?

Women have two ovaries, one on each side of the body. They are part of the reproductive system. The ovaries are connected to the womb (uterus) by the fallopian tube.

When a woman is of childbearing age, the ovaries produce an egg each month. If the egg is fertilised, the woman becomes pregnant. The ovaries also produce the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

Ovarian cancer develops if cells in the ovary start to change and grow abnormally.

Who is most at risk of ovarian cancer?

As with all cancers, the risk of developing ovarian cancer depends on a number of factors and varies from person to person. Ovarian cancer mostly occurs in women over 50.

Lifestyle risk factors

> Being overweight or obese
> Smoking/using tobacco
> Not breastfeeding when you have a baby (limited evidence)

Other risk factors

How can you reduce your risk of ovarian cancer?

The good news is that there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk. These steps are based on research from our Global Cancer Update Programme (CUP Global).

1. Be a healthy weight

Research shows that being overweight or obese is a cause of ovarian cancer. Try our body mass index calculator and waist measurement guide to check if you are a healthy weight and shape.

2. Don’t smoke

You can reduce your risk of ovarian cancer by not smoking. If you do smoke, stopping smoking will reduce your risk. The NHS stop smoking service can help you quit.

> Visit NHS Choices to find out more about the risk factors, signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer

*Cancer statistics based on combined data from EnglandScotlandNorthern Ireland and Wales. World Cancer Research Fund, 2022.