Asbestos exposure has been formally recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a cause of ovarian cancer since 2009. Occupational exposure and inhalation of asbestos fibers are considered to be the most common causes of asbestos-related disease. However, oral ingestion of asbestos fibers in occupational and domestic settings can also contribute to the development of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer and Asbestos Exposure

Everyone is exposed to low levels of asbestos in the air, soil, and water. Inhalation and oral ingestion of asbestos fibers from these elements can contribute to the development of ovarian cancer. However, it is prolonged, daily exposure to asbestos that most often leads to disease. Usually, it takes 10 to 40 years after exposure for symptoms of an asbestos-related disease to develop. 

Asbestos exposure is linked to the development of ovarian cancer. The causal relationship is the strongest with occupational exposure. A dose-response effect is appreciated, where women with the greatest cumulative exposure have the greatest risk of developing ovarian cancer .1

Risk Factors for Asbestos-Related Diseases

Occupational exposure to asbestos is the greatest risk factor for developing asbestos-related ovarian cancer. Professions with the highest risk of exposure to asbestos include 

  • Construction
  • Demolition
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining and milling 
  • Automobile repair 
  • Firefighting

Additional risk factors for asbestos-related ovarian cancer include smoking, alcohol consumption, and highly sedentary professions and lifestyles.2 The disease could potentially be prevented by avoiding exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, once an individual is exposed to asbestos, there is no known way to prevent asbestos-related disease from developing.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer 

The hallmark symptoms of ovarian cancer include

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal distention
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Feeling full sooner
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Urinary urgency
  • Pelvic mass

Additional symptoms of ovarian cancer may include

  • Vomiting
  • Pelvic pain

The gastrointestinal symptoms of ovarian cancer are often present for greater than three months. If you have experienced occupational exposure to asbestos and are currently experiencing symptoms concerning for ovarian cancer, it is important that you make an appointment to see your healthcare provider. He or she can assess your overall health and your risk for ovarian cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. 

Ovarian Cancer and Asbestos