Health

Fallopian operation 'may cut ovarian cancer risk'

Ovarian cancer cells
Image caption Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women in the UK.

A doctor has raised the idea of women at high risk of ovarian cancer having their Fallopian tubes removed as a precaution.

Cancer Research UK said there was no evidence how effective it would be.

The Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer after finding out she had a faulty BRCA gene.

The same mutation can also cause ovarian cancer. Prof Sean Kehoe said removing fallopian tubes might help.

Some people with the mutation do have their ovaries and the connecting fallopian tubes removed to prevent ovarian cancer.

'Avoiding earlier menopause'

Prof Kehoe, of the charity Wellbeing of Women and the University of Birmingham, argues that just removing the tubes could help many women.

He said: "The main advantage of this approach would be hopefully giving some protection but avoiding earlier menopause, as normally the ovaries would be removed.

"Recent studies suggest that the fallopian tubes may be the source of up to 50 per cent of so-called ovarian cancers, though research is ongoing."

However, patients would still need to have a second operation later to remove the ovaries and Prof Kehoe admitted there was a "need to research this in much more detail".

About 7,000 women develop ovarian cancer annually, making it the fifth most common cancer in women in the UK.

Taking contraceptive pill

Dr James Brenton, an ovarian cancer expert at Cancer Research UK, said: "Removing the fallopian tube from women with a BRCA fault could reduce their risk of developing ovarian cancer without the side-effects that removing the ovaries would have.

"But there have been no studies to show how effective this could be.

"Any woman who carries a BRCA fault should speak to her doctor to discuss the possibilities for them.

He said there were other things women could do to reduce their risk, such as taking the contraceptive pill for three years before the age of 30.

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