What are uterine cancer risk factors?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Dr. David Hoogerland, a gynecologic oncologist with Columbia St. Mary’s

The most common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal bleeding. A biopsy of the uterus can quickly detect the presence of cancer, or determine whether the bleeding is caused by something else, such as a benign fibroid tumor.

"Probably 80 to 90 percent of the occurrences of this disease is in post-menopausal women," said Dr. David Hoogerland, a gynecologic oncologist with Columbia St. Mary’s.

In about two-thirds of cases, a family predisposition or other uncontrollable factor is involved. But, he said, the remaining one-third of the cases he treats are preventable.

That’s because a major risk factor for getting uterine cancer is obesity. Dr. Hoogerland emphasized that he was not talking about women who needed to lose 15 or 20 pounds. "I’m talking about women who are significantly obese," he said.

High levels of estrogen in the body may be the reason that obese women have an increased risk of developing uterine cancer. Fat cells convert a hormone called androstendyne into a weak estrogen called estrone. "If you have a lot of fat cells you make a lot of weak estrogen. Therefore, you have a lot of estrogen, and it’s coming at you at a constant rate," he said.

Other risk factors for the disease include family history, and not having children.

Birth control pills can lower the risk of contracting uterine cancer. That’s because they’re comprised of synthetic estrogen and progesterone. Birth control pills make the lining tissue of the uterus very thin. That enables the uterus to maintain a steady hormonal balance, making it impossible for extra estrogen to take hold.

Find more facts about uterine cancer at www.medicalmoment.org



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