Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Previously Published Works bannerUCLA

Genetic epidemiology of ovarian cancer and prospects for polygenic risk prediction.


Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is a heterogeneous disease with a major heritable component. The different histotypes of invasive disease - high grade serous, clear cell, endometrioid and mucinous - are associated with different underlying genetic susceptibility and epidemiological and lifestyle risk factors, all of which contribute to the different biology and clinical characteristics of each histotype. A combination of familial and population based sequencing studies, and genome wide association studies (GWAS) have identified a range of genetic susceptibility alleles for EOC comprising rare but highly penetrant genes (e.g. BRCA1, BRCA2) that are responsible for familial clustering of ovarian cancer cases; more moderate penetrance susceptibility genes (e.g. BRIP1, RAD51C/D, MSH6); and multiple common but low penetrance susceptibility alleles identified by GWAS. Identifying genetic risk alleles for ovarian cancer has had a significant impact on disease prevention strategies; for example it is now routine clinical practice for individuals with germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations to undergo risk reducing salpingo-oophorectomy. Because ovarian cancers are commonly diagnosed at a late clinical stage when the prognosis is poor, the continued development of genetic risk prediction and prevention strategies will represent an important approach to reduce mortality due to ovarian cancer. Advances in genomics technologies that enable more high-throughput genetic testing, combined with research studies that identify additional EOC risk alleles will likely provide further opportunities to establish polygenic risk prediction approaches, based on combinations of rare high/moderate penetrance susceptibility genes and common, low penetrance susceptibility alleles. This article reviews the current literature describing the genetic and epidemiological components of ovarian cancer risk, and discusses both the opportunities and challenges in using this information for clinical risk prediction and prevention.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Item not freely available? Link broken?
Report a problem accessing this item