Risk factors for gestational trophoblastic disease

A risk factor is something that increases the risk of developing cancer. It could be a behaviour, substance or condition. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors. But sometimes gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) develops in women who don’t have any of the risk factors described below.

Rates of GTD are higher in the Philippines, other parts of Asia and some parts of Africa. They are lower in Canada, the United States and Europe.

The rates of GTD are higher in certain ethnic populations. In Canada, Inuit have higher rates of GTD.

Women who are 40 years of age and older have the highest risk of GTD. Women younger than age 20 are also at an increased risk of GTD.

The following are risk factors for GTD. None of the risk factors are modifiable. This means that you can’t change them. Until we learn more about these risk factors, there are no specific ways you can reduce your risk.

Risk factors are generally listed in order from most to least important. But in most cases, it is impossible to rank them with absolute certainty.

Risk factors

Previous hydatidiform mole

Family history

There is convincing evidence that the following factors increase your risk for GTD.

Previous hydatidiform mole

Women who have had a hydatidiform mole, the most common type of GTD, have a higher risk of developing another hydatidiform mole or another type of GTD. A woman’s risk increases if she has had more than one hydatidiform mole.

Family history

If other women in your family have had GTD, you have a higher risk for this type of cancer.

Possible risk factors

Women with type A or AB blood may have a higher risk for GTD, but there is not enough evidence to show for sure that this is a risk factor. More research is needed to clarify the role of blood type for GTD.

Questions to ask your healthcare team

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about risks.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. What Are the Risk Factors for Gestational Trophoblastic Disease?. American Cancer Society; 2017.
  • National Cancer Institute. Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2015.
  • National Cancer Institute. Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors Treatment (PDQ®) Patient Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2018.
  • Palmer JR . Choriocarcinoma. Thun MJ (ed.). Schottenfeld and Fraumeni Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention. 4th ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2018: 50: 953-960.
  • Schink JC & Lurain JR . Gestational trophoblastic disease: molar pregnancy and gestational trophoblastic neoplasia. Chi DS, Dizon DS, Berchuck A, and Yashar C (eds.). Principles and Practice of Gynecologic Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia: 2017: 26: 744-765.

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