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Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 13:19

Results published in the July 15, 2011 edition of the British Journal Of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG) have given yet further reassurance to women found to have ovarian cysts after the menopause. Results strongly indicate that there is no increased risk of ovarian cancer as a result of having a post-menopausal ovarian cyst. What is more, such cysts do not signal increased risk of other related cancers such as that of the breast or the endometrium (lining of the womb)

But it will take longer follow-up "to definitively confirm these findings," researchers cautioned.

In the meantime, the "time-honoured" notion that ovarian cancer arises from malignant transformation of inclusion cysts of the ovary is being increasingly questioned, according to senior author Dr. Usha Menon, at the University College London EGA Institute for Women's Health, and colleagues.

Data for the new report came from the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening, with more than 200,000 postmenopausal subjects. About half are receiving periodic ultrasound exams. In the first year, ultrasound screening identified 1,234 women with inclusion cysts and 22,914 with normal ovaries, according to the report.

After a median of six years, four women with cysts and 32 with normal ovaries had developed ovarian cancer. The relative risk of 2.32 for ovarian cancer in the cyst group was not statistically significant.

Similarly, the relative risks for invasive epithelial ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and breast cancer at 1.92; 1.44 and 1.12, respectively were not significant.

Furthermore, incidences in women with inclusion cysts were similar to the UK age-adjusted expected rates of these cancers, Dr. Menon and colleagues report.

"Our data," they conclude, "show that ultrasound-detected inclusion cysts in postmenopausal women do not seem to be associated with an increased incidence of primary invasive ovarian or hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and endometrium."

These findings are, in fact, in keeping with results from similar studies in recent years. These have shown that presence of a simple ovarian cyst after the menopause is, in itself, not an indication for immediate surgery and, more importantly, should not be regarded as a warning of increased cancer risk. Results of one such study published in mid-2010 are discussed here:

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