Low levels of vaginal bacteria might increase the chances of a woman in developing ovarian cancer, according to a study. The research was led by a group of academics from the University College London.

Nearly 20,000 women in the United Stated develop ovarian cancer every year, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency also states that treatment for this illness works best when it is diagnosed at an early stage.

But many of the symptoms related to this disease, including abdominal or pelvic pain and bloating, are associated with some common health problems, like irritable bowel syndrome and menstrual cramps. Because of this factor, the diagnosis often gets delayed and the cancer spreads to other regions.

It is worth noting that the cause for ovarian cancer is yet to be known. Some of the factors that can increase the risk of developing this illness are obesity, age and a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. As of now, there is also no screen test for ovarian cancer.

The researchers stated that knowing the exact cause for this cancer can play a vital role in reducing the risk of developing this disease. For the study, the scientists observed more than 170 women with ovarian cancer. While around 300 participants in the research had no genetic risks, about 110 of the participants inherited genetic risks.

To find the association between ovarian cancer and a type of vaginal bacteria called Lactobacilli, researchers examined the samples of participants through the same method that is used for cervical screening.

Through the analysis of the data, the academics found the amount of vaginal bacteria was low in women aged 50 with ovarian cancer or the ones who were at risk of developing this illness.

However, the researchers are of the opinion that more research is needed to explore the link between the two. It is very early to advice women to get protective doses of vaginal bacteria, they said.

“We do not yet know for sure whether low levels of the beneficial bacteria lead to an increased risk of ovarian cancer, but that is what we suspect. It fits with other research. It's been shown that women who use excessive vaginal hygiene products have lower levels of this bacterium too, and they are at increased risk of ovarian cancer,” BBC quoted researcher Martin Widschwendter.

The study, titled Association between the cervicovaginal microbiome, BRCA1 mutation status, and risk of ovarian cancer: a case-control study, was published in a journal called The Lancet Oncology on Wednesday.

The research was funded with the money obtained through tampon tax, grants from the EU as well as the money from Eve Appeal Charity.

Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is associated with vaginal bacteria. Pixabay/905513