Do your ovaries keep you slim? WHAM says no

1 November 2023 | Research and clinical trials

New research will assist women at high risk of ovarian cancer.

Some women have a genetic mutation (BRCA1 or BRCA2) which makes them more likely than other women to develop cancers such as breast or ovarian cancer. To reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, these women can have their ovaries removed, which results in early menopause (also known as surgical menopause).

Lead Researcher Dr Sarah Price said women’s decisions about whether to undertake this preventative surgery may be influenced by the common belief that menopause results in weight gain and changes in body composition.

Her study demonstrated that surgical menopause actually has very little impact on the weight and body composition of women who have had their ovaries removed, by comparing their weight and body composition with women of the same age who retain their ovaries.

“This finding is important because it largely addresses a myth that has the potential to impact a woman’s decision making around whether or not to have surgery to prevent ovarian cancer,” Dr Price said.

“It will allow women to make decisions based on evidence rather than a misconception.”

Dr Price said the study was made possible because Professor Martha Hickey, Director of the Women’s Gynaecology Research Centre, had previously undertaken the What Happens After Menopause (WHAM) study. Dr Price analysed the weight and body composition of 95 premenopausal women who undertook preventative surgery and a comparison group of 99 women who retained their ovaries.

“The rich and varied research collaborations at the Women’s enable us to conduct studies that are so translatable to the clinical setting,” Dr Price said.

This research was published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.