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Obesity identified as key womb cancer risk factor

Obesity identified as key womb cancer risk factor
13th April 2016

Obesity has been identified as a key driver behind rising levels of womb cancer, according to new statistics published by Cancer Research UK.

Figures show that over the past two decades, there has been a 54 per cent increase in womb cancer rates. 20 years ago, approximately 19 women in every 100,000 developed the disease, compared to a rate of 29 in 100,000 today. 

However, survival rates for the disease have improved across the time period, with almost eight in ten women going on to survive at least ten years, compared to six in ten in the 1970s. However, the organisation stresses the importance of understanding what's behind the rise in womb cancer rates.

"It's worrying that womb cancer cases are going up so sharply. We don't know all the reasons why," commented director of the Cancer Research UK and UCL Cancer Trials Centre Professor Jonathan Ledermann.

"But we do know that about a third of cases are linked to being overweight so it's no surprise to see the increases in womb cancer cases echo rising obesity levels," he added.

It is currently unclear exactly how obesity contributes to the risk of developing womb cancer. Current theories suggest that the extra fat in the body could produce hormones and growth factors that spark the cell division that results in the disease.

There are several other womb cancer risk factors, including lack of exercise, age, and hormone replacement therapy. Post-menopausal women are particularly susceptible to the disease, with most diagnoses occurring between the ages of 40 and 75. 

Head of health information at Cancer Research UK Julie Sharp stressed that it's important that women are aware of ways to potentially prevent womb cancer from developing.

"Obesity is linked to ten different types of cancer, including womb cancer, and is the single biggest preventable cause of the disease after smoking. While there are no guarantees against cancer, keeping a healthy weight can help you stack the odds in your favour and has lots of other benefits too."