While the clear causes of Endometrial Cancer are unknown, there are risk factors that are proven to be linked with the disease. Following is a list of known factors:
Age and Diet
- The risk of endometrial cancer goes up as a woman gets older. Women who have a diet high in animal fat are also at risk for developing Endometrial Cancer.
Breast or Ovarian Cancer
- Women who have had breast cancer or ovarian cancer may have a higher risk of getting endometrial cancer.
- Some studies suggest that diabetes could be a risk factor.
Earlier Pelvic Radiation Therapy
- Radiation can damage the DNA of cells. This could increase the risk of developing a second type of cancer.
- Endometrial hyperplasia is an increased growth of the endometrium. While the most common type has a very small risk of becoming cancer, the “atypical“ type has a higher chance of developing into cancer.
- Although estrogen treatment can reduce hot flashes, improve vaginal dryness, and help prevent the weakening of the bones (osteoporosis), the use of estrogen on its own increases the risk of developing endometrial cancer.
(It is important to discuss estrogen therapy with your doctor. If you choose to take it, you should use the lowest dose that is needed for the shortest period of time.)
- This type of cancer appears to run in some families who have also developed a certain type of colon cancer. A small number of endometrial cancers may be inherited. Therefore, women who have had family members diagnosed with colon cancer and/or endometrial cancer should think about having genetic testing.
- Before menopause, the ovaries are the main source of estrogen and progesterone. After menopause, a shift in the balance of these hormones towards estrogen increases the risk of this type of cancer.
- Studies show that having more periods during a woman's lifetime raises her risk of endometrial cancer.
- Most of a woman's estrogen is made by her ovaries, but fat tissue can change some other hormones into estrogens. Having more fat tissue can increase a woman's estrogen levels which can lead to endometrial cancer.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Women with PCOS have hormone levels that are not normal, such as higher estrogen levels and lower levels of progesterone.
- Tamoxifen is a drug that is used to treat and reduce the risk of women in regards to breast cancer. The drug acts like estrogen in the uterus but may cause the uterine lining to grow and increase the risk of endometrial cancer. (Note: The risk of getting endometrial cancer in women taking tamoxifen is fairly small (about 1 in 500))
Signs and Symptoms
Normally, Endometrial or Uterine Cancer develops after menopause or around the time that menopause begins.
Following are symptoms associated with Endometrial Cancer:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom of uterine cancer, which may start as a watery, blood-streaked flow that gradually contains more blood.
- Difficult or painful urination, pain during intercourse and pain in the pelvic region may indicate a cancer is developing and a woman should consult her doctor.