Uterine cancer rates rise among US women

 Ultrasound image of lower abdomen, ovary and uterus with tumor or uterine fibroid, leiomyoma of female woman patient for gynecological medical exam, analysis and test

Uterine cancer rates rise among US women

While many types of cancers are declining nationwide, a new report finds more women in the U.S. are developing and dying from uterine cancer than they were two decades ago. Black women are being the hardest hit with a disproportionately higher rate that is diagnosed with uterine cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report which found that the rate of new cases of uterine cancer increased 0.7 percent per year from 1999 to 2015, and that the death rate increased 1.1 percent per year from 1999 to 2016.  Smaller increases were found among non-Hispanic white women than among women in other racial or ethnic groups. While new cases of uterine cancer were higher among both black and white women than among other racial/ethnic groups, deaths from the disease were twice as high for black women.

What is uterine cancer?

Uterine cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs with approximately 63,230 cases expected for 2018, according to the National Cancer Institute. Uterine cancer is sometimes referred to as endometrial cancer. Because the endometrium is part of the uterus, it is sometimes referred to as endometrial cancer and often called uterine cancer.  Both are the same disease but uterine sarcoma is an entirely different entity with very different symptoms and treatments for uterine cancer.

When cancer forms in the lining of the uterus, it is referred to as endometrial cancer.  This cancer is what is known as an adenocarcinoma, because it forms in mucus-secreting glands. The majority of cancers of the uterus are endometrial cancer. Uterine sarcoma forms in the uterine muscle. 

Most uterine cancers are diagnosed early, when they are treatable and curable with surgery alone. However some women can have aggressive forms of uterine cancer that are more difficult to treat. Symptoms of uterine cancer can be abnormal bleeding, either heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding, bleeding between periods or bleeding after menopause. Such bleeding is never normal and should prompt a woman to see her gynecologist.

Why are uterine cancer rates rising?

The rising rates of uterine cancer are believed to be linked to rising rates of obesity among U.S. women, according to the report. Women with excess body weight are two to about four times more likely to develop endometrial cancer (the most common type of uterine cancer) than women with a normal body weight. Obese women also have higher circulating rates of the hormone estrogen, so that tends to put them at a higher risk also.

Other factors possibly contributing to the increase include insufficient physical activity, increasing rates of diabetes, and the decreasing use of certain hormone therapies.

The reason why uterine cancer rates are higher among African American women is not entirely understood. A few reasons could be genetics and/or a lack of access to health care. Black women living in poor or rural communities may not have access to equal care. By the tumors are diagnosed, the disease may have already spread.

What can women do to reduce their risk of uterine cancer?

While there is no known way to prevent uterine cancer, there are several things a woman can do to possibly reduce her risk of being diagnosed with the disease:

·      Use birth control pills – These are generally seen as protective because the pill contains progesterone, which counters the effects of estrogen and inhibits the growth of abnormal endometrial cells

·      Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active

·      If a woman is using estrogen, she should also take progesterone.

·      Know the symptoms of uterine cancer Any woman with any of these symptoms needs to see her doctor right away.

All women should ask their doctor about how often they should be checked for uterine cancer, especially if a woman has factors that may increase her chance of developing it.