- A new study finds that excess weight may increase a person’s risk of endometrial cancer.
- New therapies, including fasting insulin and testosterone, may help reduce this risk.
- Researchers looked at data from more than 120 individuals.
New research from the University of Bristol found that excess weight may almost double an individual’s risk of endometrial cancer, also known as womb cancer.
Endometrial cancer occurs when cells in the lining of the uterus or the endometrium become cancerous and start growing out of control.
For every 5 body mass index (BMI) unit increase, the risk of endometrial cancer almost doubles (a risk increase of about 88 percent), according to the study, which was published in BMC Medicine Monday.
Previous evidence has linked excess weight to various types of cancer, like breast cancer. Still, the new report is one of the first to specifically look at how lifelong obesity impact’s a person’s risk of developing endometrial cancer.
High BMI is a known risk factor for womb cancer. The study authors believe that developing therapies that target hormones associated with excess weight — including fasting insulin and testosterone — could help prevent endometrial cancer.
People with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered having overweight, and if their BMI is over 30, they are considered having obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This study provides strong confirmatory evidence with the relationship between obesity and endometrial cancer. This association has been known for years,” Dr. G. Thomas Ruiz, OB/GYN Lead at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, told Healthline.
The researchers looked at genetic samples of 120,000 individuals from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Sweden.
Nearly 13,000 of the participants had endometrial cancer.
The researchers found that the risk of endometrial cancer doubled, a risk increase of about 88 percent, for every 5 BMI unit increase.
The research team also evaluated 14 factors that could explain the link between obesity and endometrial cancer and determined that fasting insulin and testosterone may be responsible for the increased link.
There was evidence that elevated cholesterol levels may impact the risk of endometrial cancer.
The researchers hope the findings will help scientists develop therapies that can target these hormones and ultimately decrease people’s risk of cancer.
For example, metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes, targets hormone levels and may be able to impact cancer risk as well, the researchers suspect.
“Discovering the genetic link or understanding the link to obesity could lead to better therapeutics and preventative care,” Ruiz said.
Endometrial cancer is the most common type of gynecological cancer in high-income countries, and obesity is one of the leading and most preventable causes of cancer.
According to Dr. Elena Ratner, a gynecologic oncologist at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital, obesity plays an important role in increasing the risk of endometrial cancer in people who go through menopause.
Adipose tissue, which stores body fat, is involved in the conversion of androgens to estrogen.
“Estrogen increases growth or proliferation of the endometrium, increasing risk of endometrial cancer,” Ratner said.
Ratner added that multiple studies have associated fasting insulin levels with a heightened risk of endometrial cancer.
According to the researchers, a moderate weight, which can be maintained by a balanced diet, can help lower the risk of cancer.
Exercise also improves metabolism and is an important aid for weight control.
“If one is genetically predisposed to obesity, the key is weight control,” says Ruiz, who recommends a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables, such as the Mediterranean diet.
Signs of endometrial cancer can include the following:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding, spotting, or other discharge
- Pain in the pelvis
- Feeling a mass in the abdomen
More information can be found here from the American Cancer Society.
New research has found that in people with uteruses excess weight nearly doubles an individual’s risk of endometrial cancer, also known as womb cancer. Fasting insulin and testosterone, two hormones influenced by obesity and excess weight, appear to play a role in the risk of womb cancer. The researchers believe the findings could help scientists develop new therapies that target these hormones to decrease the risk of womb cancer.