Woman’s Health and Fitness Series IV: Ovarian Cancer

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In the last few weeks, we have discussed a range of topics that influence woman’s health and fitness, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and anorexia.  Today, in honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we would like to share some research about ovarian cancer, a disease that affects 20,000 women in the United States every year.  In order to best treat and understand the causes of ovarian cancer, researchers continue to dig deeper into this serious woman’s health issue.

For example, we are aware that our environment affects our health, but did you know that the environment your grandmother lived in could affect you as well? This year, researchers at Washington State University published a study in PLOS ONE that found that ovarian cancer may result from previous generations’ exposure to environmental chemicals.  The researchers exposed pregnant rats to various compounds, including a fungicide, a pesticide mixture, a plastic mixture, dioxin, and a hydrocarbon mixture, to investigate the role of environmental exposure in ovarian disease.  They found that the compounds caused epigenetic changes, which are chemical modifications to DNA that affect how the DNA is used in a cell. In both the first and third generations, the results showed significant impact after the toxin exposure.

This study helped further our understanding of the causes of ovarian disease, but what about the treatment?  In another PLOS ONE article published this year, researchers studied the defects in DNA repair pathways in sporadic ovarian carcinomas, a particular type of ovarian cancer, which may influence the effectiveness of treatment.  Through this investigation, the researchers concluded that patients with high levels of three specific proteins were at a higher risk for treatment resistance and cancer reoccurrence.  This finding may have important implications for ovarian cancer diagnosis as well as treatment.

Diagnosis of this disease is particularly important, because treatment is most effective when it is diagnosed in its early stages.  In the spirit of Women’s Health and Fitness Day and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, it is important to remember the impact our environment has on our health, as well as the importance of early disease detection.

Please remember to check in later this week for our last blog post of our Women’s Health and Fitness Series, where we will discuss pregnancy.

Citation: Nilsson E, Larsen G, Manikkam M, Guerrero-Bosagna C, Savenkova MI, et al. (2012) Environmentally Induced Epigenetic Transgenerational Inheritance of Ovarian Disease. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36129. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036129

Citation: Wysham WZ, Mhawech-Fauceglia P, Li H, Hays L, Syriac S, et al. (2012) BRCAness Profile of Sporadic Ovarian Cancer Predicts Disease Recurrence. PLoS ONE 7(1): e30042. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030042

Image Credit: cc-by license by Summer Skyes 11 on Flickr.

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