Particular health conditions require hysterectomy or removal of the ovaries. This procedure is sometimes done to save the life of the patient or to avoid complications.
However, a recent study shows the link between this procedure and an increase risk of heart disease, cancer and premature death.
Illustration of the different types of hysterectomy (c) El Camino Hospital
The study is led by researchers at the University of Warwick. It is so far the largest of its kind conducted on the subject, which has covered a ten year period.
For the study, experts examined 113,679 cases of women aged 35-45 during the period April 2004 to March 2014. The research is published in the BMJ
, and was supported by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care West Midlands (CLAHRC WM).
Results showed that women who didn't have hysterectomy were less likely to develop ischemic heart disease (coronary artery disease) or cancer after hysterectomy than those who had both (bilateral) ovaries removed. Furthermore, 1.01% of women who had both their ovaries died during the study, compared to 0.6% who retained one or both ovaries.
Lead researcher Richard Lilford, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Chair in Public Health at the University of Warwick’s Warwick Medical School said in a statement
, “The combination of biological plausibility and the massive ‘effect size’ make a compelling case that women can be advised that their risk of ovarian cancer is greatly reduced by surgical removal of both ovaries. However, the lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is one in 52 in the UK, and the removal of a metabolically active organ such as the ovary may have harmful effects in the long term.
Removal of ovaries may lead to death, cancer and heart issues (c) Science Daily
“If so, these long term disadvantages (combined with the unpleasant shorter term effects of acute estrogen deprivation) must be offset against the benefit conferred by protection from ovarian cancer.”
On the other hand, a smaller Nurses’ Health Study was conducted on a countrywide basis. It examined associations between operation type and subsequent hospital admissions, as well as mortality.
Based on this study, 40 percent of women with no specific risk factors for reproductive cancer had their ovaries removed during abdominal hysterectomy in the 35-45 age group.
Professor Lilford said, “This might be a higher proportion than would be expected among women who were fully aware of the worse health outcomes with bilateral removal that we’ve reported. In that case, we might expect the proportion of women who select bilateral ovarian removal to decline as the health risks that must be traded for a reduced incidence of ovarian cancer come into sharper focus.”