• By Heather Carlson Kehren

Women’s Wellness: Ovary removal and kidney disease connection

December 6, 2018

a middle-aged woman, sitting outdoors with her chin resting on her hands and eyes downcast, looking sad or depressedROCHESTER, Minn. — Premenopausal women who have their ovaries surgically removed face an increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease, according to a Mayo Clinic study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

“This is the first study that has shown an important link between estrogen deprivation in younger women and kidney damage. Women who have their ovaries surgically removed have an increased long-term risk of chronic kidney disease," says Dr. Walter Rocca, a Mayo Clinic neurologist and epidemiologist, and senior author.

Previous research conducted in animals has shown that the female hormone estrogen protectively affects the kidneys. That led Mayo Clinic researchers to wonder how removing both ovaries would affect kidney function in premenopausal women.

"I think one thing that it’s important to note is that the women who were at highest risk for developing chronic kidney disease were women who had their ovaries removed prior to the age of 45 and who hadn’t received estrogen therapy past their 46th birthday," says Dr. Andrea Kattah, a nephrologist and co-author on the study. "In our research, it did look like the women who underwent oophorectomy at the youngest age and did not take hormone therapy for a sufficient length of time were at the highest risk, and the converse was also true."

Watch: Dr. Kattah discusses the importance of the research findings:

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video sound bites w/ Dr. Kattah are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please ‘Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.’ 

Chronic kidney disease, also called chronic kidney failure, means a person’s kidneys are damaged and unable to filter blood the way that they should. If an individual’s kidney becomes severely damaged and starts to fail, treatment options are limited to dialysis and a kidney transplant. An estimated 30 million adults in the U.S. have chronic kidney disease, and it is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These results highlight the need for physicians to discuss the potential increased risk for chronic kidney disease with women considering having their ovaries removed, according to Dr. Rocca.

“For women who do not have an increased genetic risk for breast and ovarian cancer, we recommend against the removal of the ovaries as a preventive option due to the increased risk of diseases, including chronic kidney disease and the increased risk of death,” Dr. Rocca says.

Using the records linkage system of the Rochester Epidemiology Project, the study compared 1,653 premenopausal women living in Olmsted County, Minnesota, who had their ovaries surgically removed prior to 50 to an equal number of women of similar ages who did not have their ovaries removed. The women were followed for a median of 14 years. Mayo Clinic researchers found that women who had their ovaries removed had a 6.6 percent higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease, compared to those who did not. The risk of kidney failure was even higher for women younger than 46. Those who had their ovaries removed before 46 had a 7.5 percent increased risk of chronic kidney disease.

The research was supported by the Rochester Epidemiology Project, Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health.

Co-authors of the study were Andrea Kattah, M.D.; Carin Smith; Liliana Gazzuola Rocca; Brandon Grossardt; and Vesna Garovic, M.D., Ph. D.

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