Endometrial cancer is one of the most common types of cancer found in American women. However, the good news is that it’s often detected while in its earliest and most treatable stage.
This type of cancer begins in the endometrium, the lining of the uterus. It’s also known as uterine cancer. Because it often produces vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or following menopause, endometrial cancer is frequently found while still in an early stage. Removal of the uterus often eradicates this type of cancer.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the balance between the hormones estrogen and progesterone changes each month and causes the endometrium to thicken during the early part of the menstrual cycle. When no pregnancy occurs, the uterine lining is shed at the end of the cycle.
Medical experts tie the development of endometrial cancer to a stimulation of growth of the uterine lining when the hormonal balance shifts toward estrogen. This elevates the risk of contracting endometrial cancer.
Conditions that can increase the body’s estrogen level include:
1. Having a long menstrual history. Women who started having cycles prior to age 12 have a higher risk of developing uterine cancer than those who have had periods for fewer years. This is because the longer the uterine lining has been exposed to estrogen, the higher the risk is for developing cancer.
2. Never becoming pregnant. The reason why women who have been pregnant have a lower risk factor than those who haven’t has never been precisely determined. Experts speculate that while a woman is pregnant, her body produces extra estrogen. However, it also puts out more progesterone, which might offset the higher amounts of estrogen manufactured.
3. Ovulating irregularly. Estrogen regulates a woman’s monthly release of an egg from one of her ovaries. When ovulation doesn’t happen or is irregular, one result is an increase in a woman’s exposure to estrogen. Treatment to restore regular monthly ovulation can cut the risk of developing endometrial cancer.
4. Being obese. Estrogen occurs in fat tissue as well as in the ovaries. An obese woman could be at higher risk for developing uterine and other kinds of cancers. The Mayo Clinic reports that an obese woman has three times the risk of developing this type of cancer as a woman at normal body weight. Women who are overweight but not obese have twice the risk, although being a thin woman doesn’t eliminate the chance of ever developing endometrial cancer.
5. Eating a high-fat diet. Plain and simple, it promotes obesity. Fatty food can directly affect the metabolism of estrogen, which increases a woman’s risk factor.
6. Being diabetic. The incidence of uterine cancer is higher in women who suffer from diabetes – especially from Type 2 – than it is in those who don’t have the disease.