The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports uterine cancer as the fourth most common cancer among women in the United States. While other types of uterine cancer exist, cancer in the cells which line the uterus – also called endometrial cancer – is the most prevalent form, with an estimated 63,230 new cases and 11,350 deaths for 2018 alone. Thankfully, many cases are detected early, as abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge prompt a checkup. However, certain factors put some women at a higher risk of uterine cancer than others; these five factors should be kept in mind should any unusual symptoms arise.
Imbalance of female hormones in the body
Before menopause, the ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone – the two main types of female hormones found in the body. The balance between these two hormones is vital, and an imbalance– could lead to an increased risk of developing uterine cancer. Anything that might influence hormone levels, such as birth control pills or ingesting estrogen after menopause, may leave you at a higher risk.
A higher number of years in menstruation
The more periods you’ve had, the more exposure your endometrium has had to estrogen (one of the hormones produced by the uterus). Because of this, your chances of developing endometrial cancer increase with the number of years you’ve been menstruating. If you began your period early or began menopause late, you might be more likely to develop uterine cancer.
When a woman becomes pregnant, her hormonal balance shifts towards progesterone. Because of this, pregnant women have a decreased likelihood of developing uterine cancer. Alternately, women who have never been pregnant, or have had trouble getting pregnant, may have an increased risk.
A woman’s ovaries aren’t the body’s only source of estrogen. The more fat tissue you have, the more estrogen your body produces. This leaves obese women at a higher risk for endometrial cancer when compared to women who maintain a healthier weight.
According to the CDC, while all women are susceptible to uterine cancer, the risk increases with age. If you’ve gone through menopause and are experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, it is recommended that you get screened.