Risk Factors for Uterine Cancer


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About risk factors: Risk factors for Uterine Cancer are factors that do not seem to be a direct cause of the disease, but seem to be associated in some way. Having a risk factor for Uterine Cancer makes the chances of getting a condition higher but does not always lead to Uterine Cancer. Also, the absence of any risk factors or having a protective factor does not necessarily guard you against getting Uterine Cancer. For general information and a list of risk factors, see the risk center.

Risk factor list: The list of risk factors mentioned for Uterine Cancer in various sources includes:

Risk factors discussion: Currently, there has been little insight into the exact causes for uterine cancer. However, 10-25 percent of malignancies occur in women who received pelvic radiation five to 25 years earlier for benign bleeding. As in other cancers of its type, risk factors for uterine cancer include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and improper estrogen levels..1

Some evidence suggests a link between a high-fat diet and certain cancers, such as cancers of the colon, uterus, and prostate. Being seriously overweight may be linked to breast cancer among older women and to cancers of the prostate, pancreas, uterus, colon, and ovary. On the other hand, some studies suggest that foods containing fiber and certain nutrients may help protect against some types of cancer.2

Doctors may recommend HRT, using either estrogen alone or estrogen in combination with progesterone, to control symptoms (such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness) that may occur during menopause. Studies have shown that the use of estrogen alone increases the risk of cancer of the uterus. Therefore, most doctors prescribe HRT that includes progesterone along with low doses of estrogen. Progesterone counteracts estrogen's harmful effect on the uterus by preventing overgrowth of the lining of the uterus; this overgrowth is associated with taking estrogen alone. (Estrogen alone may be prescribed for women who have had a hysterectomy, surgery to remove the uterus, and are, therefore, not at risk for cancer of the uterus.) Other studies show an increased risk of breast cancer among women who have used estrogen for a long time; and some research suggests that the risk might be higher among those who have used estrogen and progesterone together.2

Studies have found the following risk factors:

  • Age. Cancer of the uterus occurs mostly in women over age 50.

  • Endometrial hyperplasia. The risk of uterine cancer is higher if a woman has endometrial hyperplasia. This condition and its treatment are described above.

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT is used to control the symptoms of menopause, to prevent osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), and to reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.

    Women who use estrogen without progesterone have an increased risk of uterine cancer. Long-term use and large doses of estrogen seem to increase this risk. Women who use a combination of estrogen and progesterone have a lower risk of uterine cancer than women who use estrogen alone. The progesterone protects the uterus.

    Women should discuss the benefits and risks of HRT with their doctor. Also, having regular checkups while taking HRT may improve the chance that the doctor will find uterine cancer at an early stage, if it does develop.

  • Obesity and related conditions. The body makes some of its estrogen in fatty tissue. That's why obese women are more likely than thin women to have higher levels of estrogen in their bodies. High levels of estrogen may be the reason that obese women have an increased risk of developing uterine cancer. The risk of this disease is also higher in women with diabetes or high blood pressure (conditions that occur in many obese women).

  • Tamoxifen. Women taking the drug tamoxifen to prevent or treat breast cancer have an increased risk of uterine cancer. This risk appears to be related to the estrogen-like effect of this drug on the uterus. Doctors monitor women taking tamoxifen for possible signs or symptoms of uterine cancer.

    The benefits of tamoxifen to treat breast cancer outweigh the risk of developing other cancers. Still, each woman is different. Any woman considering taking tamoxifen should discuss with the doctor her personal and family medical history and her concerns.

  • Race. White women are more likely than African-American women to get uterine cancer.

  • Colorectal cancer. Women who have had an inherited form of colorectal cancer have a higher risk of developing uterine cancer than other women.

Other risk factors are related to how long a woman's body is exposed to estrogen. Women who have no children, begin menstruation at a very young age, or enter menopause late in life are exposed to estrogen longer and have a higher risk.3

Risks factors for Uterine Cancer: medical news summaries: The following medical news items are relevant to risk factors for Uterine Cancer:



Footnotes:
1. excerpt from Uterine Cancer: NWHIC
2. excerpt from What You Need To Know About Cancer - An Overview: NCI
3. excerpt from What You Need To Know About Cancer of the Uterus: NCI

Last revision: April 9, 2003

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