Risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy (RRSO), or the preventive removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes, is strongly associated with a reduction in the risk of breast, ovarian, and fallopian tube cancers in women who carry a BRCA mutation. The results of this study were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Inherited mutations in two genes-BRCA1 and BRCA2-have been found to greatly increase the lifetime risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Mutations in these genes can be passed down through either the mother’s or the father’s side of the family. Women with a BRCA mutation have a 36-85% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and a 16-60% lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer; these statistics are compared with a 13% lifetime risk of breast cancer and a 2% lifetime risk of ovarian cancer in the general population.
Because the ovaries produce estrogen, which is linked to the development of both cancers, some women who are at a high risk for developing either cancer will opt to have an oophorectomy (removal of ovaries) or a salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries and the fallopian tubes). Until now, the extent to which this strategy reduces the risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer has remained uncertain.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania conducted an analysis of ten studies that investigated the outcomes of BRCA carriers who had undergone RRSO. They found that RRSO was associated with a statistically significant reduction of both breast and ovarian cancers in women who carry one of the BRCA mutations. RRSO was associated with a 79% reduction of the relative risk of ovarian and fallopian tube cancers and a 51% reduction of the relative risk of breast cancer in women with BRCA mutations.
The researchers concluded that RRSO is strongly associated with reductions in the risk of breast, ovarian, and fallopian tube cancers and that some women may benefit from this risk reduction strategy.
 Rebbeck TR, Kauff ND, Domchek SM. Meta-analysis of risk reduction estimates associated with risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy in BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carriers. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2009; 101: 80-87.