This study investigated the psychosocial outcome of prophylactic oophorectomy versus regular screening in women at increased risk of ovarian cancer. Women who had undergone prophylactic oophorectomy (n=29) were compared with women who remained on the ovarian screening programme (n=28). Assessments were made retrospectively by postal questionnaire. The surgical group showed significantly poorer functioning on two sub-scales of the Short Form (SF)-36 Health Status Questionnaire (role-emotional (p=0.04) and social functioning (p=0.01)), and there was a trend (p=0.06) for them to report more menopausal symptoms. General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) scores were significantly higher (p=0.03) in the surgical group. There were no significant differences between the groups for cancer worry or sexual functioning. Experience of the operation was better (p=0.01) and incidence of self-reported post-operative problems was lower (p=0.02) for women who had undergone the 'keyhole' rather than an 'open' procedure. Being pre-menopausal at the time of surgery predicted higher GHQ (p=0.04) and longer subjective recovery time (p=0.04). Women who have undergone prophylactic oophorectomy may have more physical and emotional symptoms than women who remain on an ovarian cancer screening programme, and may report equivalent levels of cancer worry. Those who are pre-menopausal at the time of the operation may be particularly vulnerable to psychological distress and take longer to recover post-operatively. A larger prospective study is needed to evaluate the casual versus causal role of oophorectomy in these findings, and the extent to which it allays patients' fear of cancer.