“Obesity ‘likely culprit’ behind womb cancer rise,” reports BBC News.
The statistics on womb cancer
Data compiled by Cancer Research UK shows that during the mid-1990s there were around 4,800 new cases of womb cancer diagnosed in the UK each year. This figure has now risen to around 9,000 cases per year – an 87.5% increase in incidence rates.
This upward trend in womb cancer rates matches a similar trend in the rates of obesity in UK women, which has risen from 16.4% in 1993 to 25.9% in 2011.
Warning signs of womb cancer
The most common symptom of womb cancer is abnormal bleeding from the vagina.
Bleeding may start as light bleeding accompanied by a watery discharge, which may get heavier over time. Most women diagnosed with womb cancer have been through the menopause, so any vaginal bleeding will be unusual.
While unusual vaginal bleeding can have a wide range of causes, it is a symptom that always needs further assessment. See your GP as soon as possible.
Read more about the symptoms of womb cancer.
Survival rates for womb cancer are relatively good. More than 75 out of every 100 women (75%) will survive for 10 years or more after diagnosis. Many of these women will have been cured of their cancer.
Obesity and womb cancer
There are three main hypotheses for why obesity may increase a woman’s risk of womb cancer:
- oestrogen – fat cells can produce excess amounts of the hormone oestrogen, which may stimulate abnormal cell growth
- insulin – this fat-associated hormone has also been linked to abnormal cell growth
- inflammation – obesity can increase the amount of a type of immune cell known as macrophages and these can encourage cells to divide – yet again increasing the risk of abnormal cell growth
Of course, it could be the case that all three factors are involved.
Preventing womb cancer
One of the most effective ways of reducing your risk of womb cancer is to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, through a combination of exercise and a healthy diet. This should also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, which is another risk factor for womb cancer.
The NHS Choices Weight Loss plan can help you lose weight in a safe and sustainable way.