February 27, 2007

Wall Street Journal Examines Studies Finding Increased Risk Of Premature Death After Ovary Removal

The risks associated with surgery to remove a woman's ovaries could outweigh the surgery's benefits -- primarily eliminating the development of ovarian cancer -- recent research suggests, the Wall Street Journal reports. About 300,000 women annually undergo surgery to remove their ovaries in an effort to decrease their risk of developing ovarian cancer. However, recent research indicates that such surgery can increase women's risk of dying from other causes, including heart attacks and hip fractures, according to the Journal. A Mayo Clinic study published last fall in the Lancet found that removing ovaries from women ages 45 and younger increased their risk of death by 70% during the next 30 years if they did not use hormone-replacement therapy. A second study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology also showed that removing women's ovaries before age 65 increased their overall risk of death before age 80 by 8.5%, the Journal reports. The data from the studies were surprising because they "directly contradic[t] the widely held belief in the medical community that removing a woman's ovaries typically will prolong her life," the Journal reports. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer "obviously have more to gain" from ovary removal surgery than women with a family history of heart disease or osteoporosis, according to the Journal. William Parker -- professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California-Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine and lead author of the Obstetrics study -- said that the study was not conclusive but that it should encourage a more serious discussion between patients and their physicians about the surgery (Parker-Pope, Wall Street Journal, 2/6).

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