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Ovarian cancer incidence statistics

Ovarian cancer incidence statistics are presented here by country in the UK, age and trends over time. There are also data on geography, socio-economic variation, morphology and prevalence. Unless otherwise stated, the ICD codes for ovarian cancer used on this page are ICD-10 C56-C57 which includes cancer of the ovary (C56) and other and unspecified female genital organs (C57).

The latest incidence statistics available for ovarian cancer in the UK are 2010. Find out why these are the latest statistics available.

By country in the UK

Ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cancer among women in the UK (2010), accounting for 4% of all new cases of cancer in females.1-4

In 2010, there were 7,011 new cases of ovarian cancer in the UK (Table 1.1).1-4 The crude incidence rate shows that there are 22 new ovarian cancer cases for every 100,000 females in the UK.

The European age-standardised incidence rate (AS rate) is significantly lower in Northern Ireland compared with the other constituent countries of the UK (Table 1.1).1-4

Table 1.1: Ovarian Cancer (C56-C57), Number of New Cases, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2010

England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland UK
Cases 5,807 428 637 139 7,011
Crude Rate 21.9 27.9 23.7 15.2 22.2
AS Rate 17.0 20.6 17.9 12.4 17.1
AS Rate - 95% LCL 16.5 18.6 16.5 10.3 16.7
AS Rate - 95% UCL 17.4 22.5 19.3 14.5 17.5

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95% LCL and 95% UCL are the 95% lower and upper confidence limits around the AS rate

In the 1990s, there was little geographical variation in incidence of ovarian cancer in the UK and Ireland. However, the highest incidence rates were in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (which now has the lowest rates).5 The latest analysis of ovarian cancer incidence rates throughout the UK reports only modest variation between cancer networks, with the highest rates being in areas of the Midlands and the South West, and the lowest rates being in areas of Yorkshire and the South East.6,7

section reviewed 18/10/13
section updated 18/10/13


By age

Ovarian cancer incidence is strongly related to age, with the highest incidence rates being in older women. In the UK between 2008 and 2010, an average of 53% of cases were diagnosed in women aged 65 years and over, and three-quarters (75%) were diagnosed in those aged 55 and over (Figure 1.1).1-4

Age-specific incidence rates rise sharply from around age 40-44, peak in those aged 80-84, and subsequently plateau (Figure 1.1).1-4

Figure 1.1: Ovarian Cancer (C56-C57), Average Number of New Cases per Year and Age-Specific Incidence Rates, UK, 2008-2010


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section reviewed 18/10/13
section updated 18/10/13


Trends over time

Coding changes to the classification of ovarian cancer may affect comparisons over time and between different populations. Some borderline malignant tumours were classified as malignant under the coding system in place before 2000, but as uncertain behaviour in the system used after this time, which may have contributed to a decrease in incidence since 2000.8

Ovarian cancer incidence rates have increased overall in Great Britain since the mid-1970s (Figure 1.2).1-3 However, European AS incidence rates increased by 32% between 1975-1977 and 1997-1999 but have since fallen by 12% between 1997-1999 and 2008-2010.

Figure 1.2: Ovarian Cancer (C56-C57), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, Great Britain, 1975-2010


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Ovarian cancer incidence trends for the UK are shown in Figure 1.3.1-4 Over the last decade (between 1999-2001 and 2008-2010), the European AS incidence rates have decreased by 11%.

Figure 1.3: Ovarian Cancer (C56-C57), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, by Age, UK, 1993-2010


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Ovarian cancer incidence rates have increased overall for the 15-39 and 65+ age groups, and decreased for 40-49 year olds in Great Britain since the mid-1970s. Rates for 50-64 year olds are around the same now as in the mid-1970s having increased by 27% between 1975-77 and 1996-98, and then decreased by 22% between 1996-98 and 2008-10 (Figure 1.4).1-3 The largest increases have been in people aged between 15 and 39, with European AS incidence rates increasing by 59% between 1975-1977 and 2008-2010. In those aged 65 and over, rates increased by 61% between 1975-1977 and 2001-2003, but have subsequently fallen by 7%. For women aged 40-49, incidence rates remained fairly stable from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s, and have since fallen slightly.

Figure 1.4: Ovarian Cancer (C56-C57), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, by Age, Great Britain, 1975-2010


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There are likely to be several reasons for the recent decline including widespread use of the contraceptive pill, which reduces risk and is a possible explanation for the stability of rates in younger women and possibly the recent decrease in older women, as well as the coding changes described above.9

section reviewed 18/10/13
section updated 18/10/13


In Europe and worldwide

Ovarian cancer incidence varies by around 40% across the four regions of Europe, with estimated European age-standardised rates ranging from 12 per 100,000 women in Southern Europe to 17 per 100,000 in Northern Europe in 2008.10 The countries with the highest incidence rates (Figure 1.5) were Latvia and Lithuania (around 19 per 100,000), and the lowest were Cyprus and Portugal (around 7 per 100,000). The UK ranked 7th out of the 27 countries in the European Union.10

Figure 1.5: Ovarian Cancer (C56), European Age-Standardised Incidence and Mortality Rates, EU-27 Countries, 2008 Estimates


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Note: ICD-10 code for ovarian cancer data for EU countries is C56 only.

There were estimated to be 225,000 new cases of ovarian cancer worldwide in 2008, accounting for around 4% of all cancers diagnosed in women.11 Incidence rates vary considerably across the world, with World age-standardised rates in more developed countries being nearly twice as high as those in less developed countries. The estimated World age-standardised incidence rate for the more developed regions of the world was 9 per 100,000 in 2008, and 5 per 100,000 for the less developed countries.11 (World age-standardised incidence rates are not comparable to the European age-standardised incidence rates presented elsewhere in this section).

The highest ovarian cancer incidence rates are recorded in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe, followed by Western Europe and the Northern America, and the lowest rates in Africa and parts of Asia. Over 65,000 cases were estimated to be diagnosed in Europe in 2008 (45,000 in the EU27) and more than 21,500 in the USA.11,12

section reviewed 01/09/11
section updated 01/09/11

Socio-economic variation

In a comprehensive study of incidence and mortality variation within the UK and Ireland, little geographical variation was reported for ovarian cancer.5 Incidence tends to be slightly higher among women in more affluent groups than in the most deprived groups, which is not unexpected as risk factors such as low parity are more common in more affluent women.13,14

section reviewed 08/03/11
section updated 08/03/11


80-90% of ovarian malignancies are epithelial in origin, with the most common type in the UK being serous carcinomas.15-17 Other rarer subtypes include germ cell tumours, which tend to occur in pre-menopausal women and are very chemo-sensitive (and hence treatable). It is thought that most histologies share common risk factors, with the probable exception of mucinous carcinomas.15,18

The most striking international difference occurs in Japan, which has lower rates of ovarian cancer than in Europe.11 Some of this variation may be explained by geographical differences in histologies, since Japan has a higher percentage of clear cell adenocarcinomas (20-25%) compared with other Asian or Western countries (5-10%).19

section reviewed 04/11/11
section updated 04/11/11


Prevalence refers to the number of people who have previously received a diagnosis of cancer and who are still alive at a given time point. Some patients will have been cured of their disease and others will not.

In the UK around 25,100 women were still alive at the end of 2006, up to ten years after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer (Table 1.2).20

Table 1.2: Ovarian Cancer (C56-C57), One, Five and Ten Year Cancer Prevalence, UK, 31st December 2006

1 Year Prevalence 5 Year Prevalence 10 Year Prevalence
Female 4,516 15,794 25,066

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Worldwide, it is estimated that there were around 550,000 women still alive in 2008, up to five years after their diagnosis.11

section reviewed 17/05/13
section updated 17/05/13

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References for ovarian cancer incidence

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, June 2012. Similar data can be found here:
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2012. Similar data can be found here:
  3. Data were provided by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit on request, April 2012. Similar data can be found here:
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, October 2012. Similar data can be found here:
  5. Quinn M, Wood H, Cooper N, Rowan S, eds. Cancer Atlas of the United Kingdom and Ireland 1991–2000. Studies on Medical and Population Subjects No. 68. London: ONS; 2005.
  6. National Cancer Intelligence Network. Cancer Incidence and Mortality by Cancer Network, UK, 2005. London: NCIN; 2008.
  7. National Cancer Intelligence Network. Cancer e-Atlas. Accessed May 2013.
  8. UK Association of Cancer Registries.  Library of recommendations on cancer coding and classification policy and practice. Accessed May 2013.
  9. Collaborative Group on Epidemiological Studies of Ovarian C, Beral V, Doll R, Hermon C, et al. Ovarian cancer and oral contraceptives: collaborative reanalysis of data from 45 epidemiological studies including 23,257 women with ovarian cancer and 87,303 controls. Lancet 2008;371(9609):303-14.
  10. European age-standardised rates calculated by Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK, 2011 using data from GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, IARC,
  11. Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, Forman D, Mathers C and Parkin DM. GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide. IARC Cancerbase No,10 [Internet] Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2010. Available from:
  12. Ries LAG, Harkins D, Krapcho M, et al (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2006. 2010.
  13. National Cancer Intelligence Network. Cancer incidence by deprivation England 1995-2004. London: NCIN; 2008.
  14. Cooper N, Quinn MJ, Rachet B, et al. Survival from cancer of the ovary in England and Wales up to 2001. Br J Cancer 2008;99 Suppl 1:S70-2
  15. Granstrom C, Sundquist J, Hemminki K. Population attributable fractions for ovarian cancer in Swedish women by morphological type. Br J Cancer 2008;98:199-205.
  16. DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA (eds). Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 8th edition. Philadephia, USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008.
  17. McCluggage WG. My approach to and thoughts on the typing of ovarian carcinomas. Journal of Clinical Pathology 2008;61:152-63.
  18. Purdie DM, Webb PM, Siskind V, et al. The different etiologies of mucinous and nonmucinous epithelial ovarian cancers. Gynecol Oncol 2003;88:S145-8.
  19. Ushijima K. Current status of gynecologic cancer in Japan. J Gynecol Oncol 2009;20:67-71.
  20. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) One, Five and Ten-Year Cancer Prevalence. London: NCIN; 2010.
Updated: 18 October 2013