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September 05, 2019

Chronic stress from PTSD increases risk of ovarian cancer, study finds

Women's Health Cancer
PTSD ovarian cancer risk

According to a new Harvard study, women who experience several symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who did not report PTSD symptoms.

Several studies have shown that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can wreak havoc on the body causing chronic problems from arthritis to hypertension. Now one new study claims PTSD in women can lead to a higher risk for ovarian cancer. 

Women with chronic stress were more likely to develop ovarian cancer – and a more severe form of the cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Research – than women who do not ave chronic stress.

Researchers from Harvard University found that women who reported six to seven symptoms associated with PTSD had a two-times greater risk to develop ovarian cancer. Women experiencing that many symptoms also had a higher risk of developing a more aggressive form of the disease – high-grade serous carcinoma. This type of malignancy typically starts in the fallopian tube, which allows the cells to spread easily into other parts of the body. 

Women that reported four to five PTSD symptoms had an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, as well, but the researchers did not find that it was not statistically significant.

Researchers pulled data from 54,710 participants in the Nurses' Health Study II, a longitudinal cohort study from 1989 to 2015. Researchers adjusted for known ovarian cancer risks such as hormonal issues and other health risk factors like smoking.

PTSD symptoms include flashbacks or vivid memories, avoidance of circumstances associated with the stressor, inability to recall some or all aspects of the stressor, difficultly sleeping, anger outbursts, difficulty concentrating and/or an exaggerated startled response.

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