OBJECTIVE: Laparoscopy may be associated with increased risk of ovarian carcinoma wound metastases. This study was designed to determine whether carbon dioxide exposure increases the growth of human ovarian cancer cells in vitro. STUDY DESIGN: Immortalized ovarian epithelial carcinoma cell (SKOV-3 cell line) cultures were exposed to carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, or culture media with decreased pH for up to 3 hours. Cell growth was determined with the use of a spectrophotometric assay, and the results were compared with control cells by paired t tests and linear regressions analysis. RESULTS: Carbon dioxide exposure increased SKOV-3 cell growth by 52% after 4 days in culture. The increased cell growth had a linear relationship to the length of carbon dioxide exposure. Cells that were exposed to either nitrous oxide or media with pH 6.3 showed a trend toward decreased growth. CONCLUSION: Carbon dioxide exposure increases the in vitro growth of human ovarian carcinoma cells by an effect that is independent of the carbon dioxide - related decrease in the culture media pH.