WEDNESDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Among women who have had a hysterectomy, those whose ovaries were also removed had a lower risk of subsequent ovarian cancer and no greater risks of heart disease, hip fractures or other types of cancer, a new study indicates.
Using data gathered from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study, the researchers analyzed more than 25,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 who underwent hysterectomies but had no family history of ovarian cancer. About 56 percent also had their ovaries removed during the procedure -- the most common non-obstetric major surgery among American women -- and 79 percent had used some form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
The results contradicted those of the only other large study of its type, the Nurses' Health Study, which suggested a link between ovary removal and increased risks of heart disease, cancer deaths and overall mortality. However, the NHS had a much longer follow-up period (24 years vs. nearly eight years) and a lower average participant age (51 years old vs. 63 years old).
"What our study emphasizes is that it's very unclear because there's this equivocal mix of data," said study author Dr. Vanessa Jacoby, an assistant professor of gynecology at University of California at San Francisco. "There's really no right answer about what to do about removing or retaining your ovaries during a hysterectomy. Definitely a lot more work needs to be done."
The study is published in the April 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
About 600,000 hysterectomies are performed each year in the United States, the vast majority to treat benign gynecologic conditions such as uterine fibroids or abnormal bleeding. Ovary removal is routinely offered to women aged 40 and older to prevent ovarian cancer, the study said, which strikes only 1.4 percent of women but is extremely d
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