Edited From WebMD. Click on the link at the bottom of this post to read the whole article.
"'From this study, it looks like having a higher number of lifetime ovulatory cycles and starting your period earlier, at a younger age, increase your risk of death after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer," says Cheryl L. Robbins, PhD, an epidemiologist at the CDC's division of reproductive health and the study's lead author.
Women who have been pregnant, for instance, have fewer ovulatory cycles over a lifetime than those who have not been pregnant.
This year, 21,550 new cases of ovarian cancer are expected in the U.S., and an estimated 14,600 women will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
Those who had their first period before age 12 were 51% more likely to die from ovarian cancer compared to those who had their first period at age 14 or later.
In recent years, the age of first period has declined, Robbins and other say. For instance, Wright State University researchers recently found that girls born in the 1980s had an average age of 12.3 years when they had their first period. The study is published in the American Journal of Human Biology.
Women with the highest number of lifetime ovulatory cycles were 67% more likely to die of ovarian cancer than those in the group with the lowest number of cycles.
Other research has found a consistent link between fewer ovulatory cycles and a lower risk of ovarian cancer, the researchers note, while research on the age at first period and ovarian cancer risk is inconsistent.
Daly, too, cites limitations in the study, also pointing out that the average age of the patients in the study is much younger than the typical average age of an ovarian cancer patient. "It is not exactly a representative population," she says.
There's no immediate take-home message for women, she says, but the study does pose an important question for researchers to answer next. And that is: "What is it about hormone exposure that can change the biology of ovarian cancer and make it more aggressive?"