Women who have their healthy ovaries removed when they have a hysterectomy face a higher risk of death -- including death from coronary heart disease and lung cancer -- than women who keep their ovaries, according to new research. The finding from a study published in the May issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology challenges conventional wisdom that removing ovaries along with the uterus offers the best chance for long-time survival.
Of the 600,000 women in the United States who get a hysterectomy every year, about 300,000 also have their ovaries removed -- about 50% of those between the ages 40 and 44 and 78% of those ages 45 to 64. But the study's authors said routine removal is often not a good choice. Though the risk of ovarian and breast cancer declined after ovary removal, the risk of heart disease and stroke for women under 50 nearly doubled, and risk of death overall before age 50 rose by 40%.