Hormones may explain link between excess weight and endometrial cancer

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The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recognizes 13 cancers as linked to obesity, and therefore considers some cases as potentially preventable.

One of these types of cancers is endometrial cancer, cases of which have increased by 59% since the early 90s in the United Kingdom.

A new study has demonstrated how increased body mass index (BMI) may affect different hormones in a way that could explain its link to endometrial cancer.

Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer affecting the female reproductive tract in high-income countries. In the U.K., one in 36 women are estimated to be diagnosed with endometrial cancer in their lifetime.

ResearchTrusted Source has indicated that women with a high BMI are more at risk of developing endometrial cancer.

BMI is calculated using a person’s height and weight and is used to determine if a person’s weight is within a healthy range. A BMI score of 20-25 is considered ‘healthy’, a BMI over 25 is considered overweight, over 30 is considered obese, and over 40 is considered severely obese, as accepted by the NHS. BMI is an indirect measure of fat tissue and it is less accurate in some individuals, hence remains controversial.

Dr. Sarah Gray, a general practioner who specializes in women’s health, told Medical News Today in an interview that 20 years ago she worked on developing guidelines at The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for women with heavy periods, which can be a symptom of endometrial cancerTrusted Source. The guidelines concluded that “the chance of getting uterine cancer below the age of 45, was really very remote”.She explained that as rates of obesity had increased in the population, this had changed:

“I’ve got a colleague who is now occasionally seeing uterine cancer in women in their early 30s,” she said.

Now, a study published in BMC Medicine has quantified the increase in the risk of endometrial cancer in women with a high BMI and has proposed a mechanism for the link.

The study’s findings A team led by researchers from the University of Bristol, with support from Cancer Research U.K., carried out an analysis of genetic samples and health information taken from the Endometrial Cancer Association Consortium, the Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium, and the U.K. Biobank.

Of the 121,885 women largely of European descent (from Australia, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S.) included in this study, 12,906 of these women had endometrial cancer.

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