Oophorectomy without a Justified Reason: How Women Unknowingly Put Themselves in Deadly Danger

There are several diseases that may require hysterectomy. Many times, the removal of the uterus is accompanied by the removal of ovaries. This can be motivated by a number of reasons, including elimination of the possibility of ovarian cancer or the desire to cryopreserve the reproductive function for the future. However, the notion that the removal of the ovaries entails trivial health risks is being challenged by a growing body of scientific data, which recently got a new contribution from researchers at the University of Warwick. The new study has also found a link between premenopausal ovarian removal and the risk of premature death in females.

When the ovaries are removed too soon

British researchers followed more than 100,000 women between the ages of 35 and 45 over a 10-year period – 2004 to 2014. They observed that women who had both of their ovaries removed in hysterectomies for benign conditions were at increased risk of developing several types of cancer and coronary artery disease as compared to women who removed only one or no ovary. One third of the women followed in this study had both ovaries removed. Within this group, 1,01% of the women died over the course of the study. This is a higher percentage of deaths than the one verified among women who removed only one or no ovaries – 0.6%.

Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Warwick Medical School Richard Lilford says that more careful ponderation should precede premenopausal women’s decisions to remove the metabolically active organ when there are no problems with it and there is no reason to suspect of future cancer. He stresses that the low probability of developing ovarian cancer does not justify the much more likely health risks associated with oophorectomy.

Limited options

This is the largest scale study ever done on the association between premenopausal oophorectomy and mortality. Scientists will continue to examine the data collected over the 10-year period of the study to spot more long-term trends. This study corroborates the findings of previous research efforts, which revealed strong associations between oophorectomy and an increased risk of death from several types of diseases in women younger than 45.

Research shows that the only women that reap benefits from this procedure are those who are truly at risk of developing ovarian cancer and those with endometriosis. These findings mean that women may have extremely limited options when their reproductive organs are intended to be cryopreserved. Oophotrectomy for prolonged fertility purposes is, therefore, somewhat discouraged by the fact that the prospective mother is more likely to die sooner.