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Ovary removal linked to kidney disease

Andrea Kattah

If you’re part of the population of women who has an increased genetic risk of ovarian cancer, think twice before getting your ovaries removed preventatively.

It could put you among the one in seven American adults with kidney disease.

On Wednesday, Mayo Clinic researchers published a study linking ovary removal in premenopausal women with increased risk of chronic kidney disease.

The study was published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

It’s the first study that demonstrates a link between estrogen deprivation in women and kidney damage, according to Mayo Clinic.


Previous studies showed estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, protects the kidneys from harm.

Knowing that, the researchers decided to investigate the link between the two, said Dr. Andrea Kattah, the lead author for the study, as some women still get preventative oophorectomies because they’re afraid of getting ovarian cancer, for which a good screening test still hasn’t been developed.

Hysterectomies are a common procedure for women to undergo, but removal of the ovaries at the same time needs a longer conversation, Kattah said.

"Fortunately, the practice of taking these out without a concrete reason is less, but it still happens," she said.

"There’s just no good way to deal with all of these things."

Using data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, the study compared 1,653 premenopausal women in Olmsted County who had their ovaries removed before age 50 with 1,653 women of similar ages who hadn’t had that surgery.

The women were followed for about 14 years.

The researchers found women who had their ovaries removed had a 6.6 percent higher chance of developing kidney disease than those who did not.


If the women had their ovaries removed before age 46, the risk increased by a total of 7.5 percent.

Chronic kidney disease renders the organs unable to function and filter blood the way they normally would. Treatment options are limited to a kidney transplant and/or dialysis.

Kidney failure is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Menopause, in which the body’s estrogen production naturally declines, typically begins in the late 40s and early 50s.

More research is needed, Kattah said, to determine the scope of estrogen’s role in kidney disease and determine what treatment options may help.

In the study, most of the women were put on hormones after their ovaries were removed, to decrease the side effects of the surgery and resultant lack of estrogen production.

Theoretically, that should have decreased the risk of kidney disease by supplying some of the missing estrogen.

But Kattah said the researchers suspect that women who stopped hormones right away might have an even higher risk of kidney disease.


And even if they continue taking them, concern about the health risks of estrogen may have led to underdosing.

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