Women who experienced six or more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their life are at twice the risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to women who never had symptoms, according to a new study by researchers from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health Y Moffitt Cancer Center.
The findings, published in the magazine Cancer research, indicate that having higher levels of PTSD symptoms, such as easily startling from common noises or avoiding memories of traumatic experience, may be associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer even decades after women experience a traumatic event. The study also found that the link between PTSD and ovarian cancer was maintained for the most aggressive forms of ovarian cancer.
“In light of these findings, we must understand if effective treatment of PTSD would reduce this risk and if other types of stress are also risk factors for ovarian cancer,” explains co-author Andrea Roberts, a research scientist at the TH Chan School. from Harvard.
“Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect in its early stages; therefore, identifying more specifically who may be at greater risk of developing the disease is important for prevention or early treatment, ”explains co-author Laura Kubzansky, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard Chan School.
To better understand how PTSD can influence the risk of ovarian cancer, the researchers analyzed data from the Nurses Health Study II, monitoring tens of thousands of women between 1989 and 2015 through biennial questionnaires and medical records. .
In 2008, 54,763 participants responded to a complementary questionnaire focused on life-long traumatic events and symptoms associated with those events. They were asked to identify the event they considered most stressful and the year of this event. They were also asked about seven symptoms of PTSD they may have experienced in relation to the most stressful event.
According to the answers, the women were divided into six groups: without exposure to trauma; trauma and no symptoms of PTSD; trauma and 1-3 symptoms; trauma and 4-5 symptoms; trauma and 6-7 symptoms; and trauma, but the symptoms of PTSD are unknown.
After adjusting for several factors associated with ovarian cancer, including the use of oral contraceptives and smoking, the researchers found that women who experienced 6-7 symptoms associated with PTSD had a significantly higher risk of ovarian cancer than women. women who had never been exposed to trauma. Women with trauma and symptoms 4-5 were also at high risk, but the risk did not reach statistical significance.
The study also showed that women who experienced 6-7 symptoms associated with PTSD had a significantly higher risk of developing the high-grade serous histotype of ovarian cancer, the most common and aggressive form of the disease.
“Ovarian cancer has relatively few known risk factors: PTSD and other forms of distress, such as depression, may represent a new direction in ovarian cancer prevention research, says Shelley Tworoger, director of the associate science center of the population of Moffitt. If confirmed in other populations, this could be a factor that doctors might consider when determining whether a woman has a high risk of ovarian cancer in the future. ”