Risk of ovarian cancer is higher in African American women with lower socioeconomic status, the opposite of trends seen in breast cancer, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.1

People with lower socioeconomic status are at greater risk for most types of cancers, explained Anthony J. Alberg, PhD, MPH, interim director of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Hollings Cancer Center and professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences. A reverse association, however, is seen in terms of risk for breast cancer, which shares many common risk factors with ovarian cancer. Furthermore, no previous studies addressing socioeconomic status and risk of ovarian cancer focused on African ancestry.

For this population-based case-control study, researchers recruited 513 women with ovarian cancer and 721 women without cancer from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas; all of whom self-identified as African American. Participants responded to a questionnaire administered by telephone that asked about several characteristics, including years of education, annual household income, and risk factors for ovarian cancer.1,2

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Study results found that women with more years of education (college degree or more) had a 29% lower risk of ovarian cancer compared with women with fewer years of education (high school diploma or less). Household income also had the same influence on risk, as those with a household income of $75,000 or more had a 26% lower risk compared with those whose household income was $10,000 or less.

The study by Alberg and colleagues establishes an association between lower socioeconomic status and increased risk for ovarian cancer, and also raises questions on whether a similar association exists in women of other racial/ethnic groups.

“Important next steps will be to establish whether this same association holds true in women of other races and ethnicities,” Alberg said. “Then we will need to determine the root causes of this relationship between socioeconomic status and ovarian cancer so that we can learn if this may lead to new clues about prevention.”


1. Medical University of South Carolina. Study links increased ovarian cancer risk with lower socioeconomic status in African-American women [news release]. EurekAlert! website. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/muos-sli080416.php. Published August 4, 2016. Accessed August 5, 2016.

2. Alberg AJ, Moorman PG, Crankshaw S, et al. Socioeconomic status in relation to the risk of ovarian cancer in African-American women: a population-based case-control study. Am J Epidemiol. 2016 Aug 3. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv450.