Germline BRCA variants, lifestyle and ovarian cancer survival

the AOCS Group, the OPAL Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Women with ovarian cancer who have a pathogenic germline variant in BRCA1 or BRCA2 (BRCA) have been shown to have better 5-year survival after diagnosis than women who are BRCA-wildtype (non-carriers). Modifiable lifestyle factors, including smoking, physical activity and body mass index (BMI) have previously been associated with ovarian cancer survival; however, it is unknown whether these associations differ by germline BRCA status. Methods: We investigated measures of lifestyle prior to diagnosis in two cohorts of Australian women with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer, using Cox proportional hazards regression to calculate adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Results: In the combined studies (n = 1923), there was little association between physical activity, BMI or alcohol intake and survival, and no difference by BRCA status. However, the association between current smoking status before diagnosis and poorer survival was stronger for BRCA variant carriers (HR 1.98; 95% CI 1.20–3.27) than non-carriers (HR 1.18; 95% CI 0.96–1.46; p-interaction 0.02). We saw a similar differential association with smoking when we pooled results from two additional cohorts from the USA and UK (n = 2120). Combining the results from all four studies gave a pooled-HR of 1.94 (95% CI 1.28–2.94) for current smoking among BRCA variant carriers compared to 1.08 (0.90–1.29) for non-carriers. Conclusions: Our results suggest that the adverse effect of smoking on survival may be stronger for women with a BRCA variant than those without. Thus, while smoking cessation may improve outcomes for all women with ovarian cancer, it might provide a greater benefit for BRCA variant carriers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-445
Number of pages9
JournalGynecologic oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • BRCA1
  • BRCA2
  • Lifestyle
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Smoking
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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