Whilst previous studies have reported that higher body-mass index (BMI) increases a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer, associations for the different histological subtypes have not been well defined. As the prevalence of obesity has increased dramatically, and classification of ovarian histology has improved in the last decade, we sought to examine the association in a pooled analysis of recent studies participating in the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium. We evaluated the association between BMI (recent, maximum, and in young adulthood) and ovarian cancer risk using original data from 15 case-control studies (13,548 cases, 17,913 controls). We combined study-specific adjusted odds ratios (ORs) using a random–effects model. We further examined the associations by histological subtype, menopausal status and post-menopausal hormone use. High BMI (all time-points) was associated with increased risk. This was most pronounced for borderline serous (recent BMI: pooled OR=1.24 per 5kg/m2; 95%CI 1.18–1.30), invasive endometrioid (1.17; 1.11–1.23) and invasive mucinous (1.19; 1.06–1.32) tumours. There was no association with serous invasive cancer overall (0.98; 0.94–1.02), but increased risks for low grade serous invasive tumours (1.13, 1.03–1.25) and in pre-menopausal women (1.11; 1.04–1.18). Among post–menopausal women, the associations did not differ between HRT users and non–users. Whilst obesity appears to increase risk of the less common histological subtypes of ovarian cancer, it does not increase risk of high grade invasive serous cancers, and reducing BMI is therefore unlikely to prevent the majority of ovarian cancer deaths. Other modifiable factors must be identified to control this disease.
Keywords: ovarian cancer, obesity, body mass index