Risk Factors for Uterine Cancer
Endometrial cancer develops from abnormal cellular growth in the inner lining of the uterus and accounts for the majority of uterine cancer cases. It is typically diagnosed in women 50 and older. When diagnosed at an early stage before it spreads outside the uterus, endometrial cancer can be successfully treated using minimally invasive methods.
Knowing the symptoms and risk factors of the disease helps towards an early diagnosis.
While the risk factors for endometrial cancer can increase the chance of developing the disease, they don’t always mean that you’ll actually get endometrial cancer. While some factors, such as gender, are beyond our control, there are some we can modify or eliminate to minimize the risk of developing this cancer.
One of the most influential risk factors for endometrial cancer is estrogen production, specifically an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. If estrogen production is not equally offset by progesterone, then the risk of endometrial cancer increases.
This explains why age is a risk factor with this type of cancer. After menopause, a woman’s hormone production stops except for a small amount of estrogen. Without progesterone for balance, it’s enough estrogen to increase the risk for cancer.
Other risk factors
- Age – 50+, menopausal years
- Overweight – fat tissue produces extra estrogen
- Family history of uterine cancer – endometrial cancer is an inherited risk
- Ovarian tumors – some tumors, such as granulosa cell tumor, produce estrogen creating a hormonal imbalance
- History of breast or ovarian cancer – some risk factors for breast and ovarian cancer also increase endometrial risk
- Hormone therapy high in estrogen – must be balanced with progesterone to minimize risk
- Menstrual history – total number of menstrual cycles (i.e., early onset menstruation with late-in- life menopause)
- Tamoxifen – medication reduces breast cancer risk but increases endometrial risk
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome – causes estrogen and progesterone imbalance
- No pregnancies – can lead to hormonal imbalance of excess estrogen
- Type 2 diabetes – increases risk as much as four times
How to manage your risk factors
At this time, screening tests for endometrial cancer do not exist. The best prevention is awareness of the risk factors and elimination or adjustment of factors which are controllable.
Consult with your doctor
Consult your doctor about any risks specific to you and maintain a regular schedule of annual check-ups. If you develop any suspicious conditions, such as heavy vaginal bleeding, spotting, or discharge, you must consult your doctor immediately.