Ovarian cancer is one of the leading female cancers in the United States. Challenges remain in early diagnosis of this deadly disease. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) family genes are paradoxically involved in cancer promotion and suppression. We hypothesize that genetic variants in MMP genes are associated with ovarian cancer development, so they could be potential markers for ovarian cancer diagnosis and prognosis. In this study of 417 ovarian cancer cases and 417 healthy controls, we genotyped a comprehensive panel of 266 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 23 MMP genes and analysed their associations with ovarian cancer risk, overall survival and treatment response in ovarian cancer cases who received platinum-based chemotherapy with surgery. In the analysis on 339 Caucasian cases and 349 Caucasian controls, 4 SNPs were significantly associated with cancer risk. The most significant association was observed for rs2292730 (OR = 2.03, 95% CI = 1.39–2.96, P = 0.0002). Classification and regression tree analysis identified four terminal nodes with differential risk of ovarian cancer. Thirty-four SNPs were significantly associated with overall survival and four of which showed significant association with response to chemotherapy. Unfavourable genotype analysis of top SNPs on overall risk of death showed significant gene-dosage effect, survival tree analysis differentiated patients into distinct risk groups based on their genetic profiles with median survival times (MSTs) ranging from 17.7 to 151.7 months. In conclusion, our results suggest that genetic variants in MMP pathway genes may modulate the risk and clinical outcomes of ovarian cancer, both individually and jointly. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.