Fallopian tube cancer is one of the most rare gynecological cancers. Only about 1,500 to 2,000 cases are reported each year in the United States. However, cancers that start in other parts of the body and spread to the fallopian tubes are more common. The main types are cancers of the ovaries, endometrium, digestive tract or breast. These are called secondary fallopian tube cancers.
Fallopian tubes are two tiny ducts, one on each side of the uterus (womb). They connect the ovaries to the uterus. If a woman has not gone through menopause, her ovaries produce eggs (ova) that travel through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. In the uterus, they are fertilized or expelled as part of menstruation (also called the menstrual cycle or periods).
Usually, an egg is released from the ovaries into the fallopian tubes each month. The tubes are lined with small hair-like projections called cilia. These help move the eggs to the uterus.
Fallopian Tube Cancer Types
The main types of Fallopian tube cancer form in the cells that line the inside of the tubes. They are:
- Serous adenocarcinomas
- Endometrioid adenocarcinomas
More rare types of Fallopian tube cancer include:
- Leiomyosarcomas, which form in the smooth muscle of the tube
- Transitional cell, which form in other cells inside the tube
Fallopian Tube Cancer Risk Factors
Because Fallopian tube cancer is so rare, we do not know the exact causes and risk factors. Risk factors may include:
- Age: Fallopian tube cancer can occur in women of any age. But it most often is found in white women between 50 and 60 years old who have had few or no children. The usual age is 60 to 66 years.
- Family history of Fallopian tube cancer
- Gene mutations: Women who have certain gene mutations may have a higher risk of Fallopian tube cancer. These include:
- BRCA gene mutations, particularly BRCA1, which cause high risk of breast and ovarian cancer
- One of the genes that cause HNPCC (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer), also called Lynch syndrome
Some women have a lower risk of getting Fallopian tube cancer. These include women who have:
- Used birth control pills
- Delivered and breast-fed children. The more children you have had, the lower your risk of Fallopian cancer.
Not everyone with risk factors gets Fallopian tube cancer. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your health care provider.
If you are concerned about inherited family syndromes that may cause Fallopian tube cancer, learn more about the risk to you and your family on our genetic testing page.