Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

Can endometrial cancer be prevented?

Most cases of endometrial cancer cannot be prevented, but there are some things that may lower your risk of developing this disease.

One way to lower endometrial cancer risk is to change risk factors whenever possible. For example, women who are overweight or obese have up to 3½ times the risk of getting endometrial cancer as compared to women with a healthy weight. Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight is one way to lower the risk of this cancer.

Studies have also linked higher levels of physical activity to lower risks of endometrial cancer, so engaging in regular physical activity (exercise) may also be a way to help lower endometrial cancer risk. An active lifestyle can help you maintain a healthy weight, as well as lowering the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes (other risk factors for endometrial cancer.

Estrogen to treat the symptoms of menopause is available in many different forms like pills, skin patches, shots, creams, and vaginal rings. If you are thinking about using estrogen for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about how it will affect your risk of endometrial cancer. Progestins (progesterone-like drugs) can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer in women taking estrogen therapy, but this combination increases the risk of breast cancer. If you still have your uterus and are taking estrogen therapy, discuss this issue with your doctor.

Getting proper treatment of pre-cancerous disorders of the endometrium is another way to lower the risk of endometrial cancer. Most endometrial cancers develop over a period of years. Many are known to follow and possibly start from less serious abnormalities of the endometrium called endometrial hyperplasia (see the section “What are the risk factors for endometrial cancer?”). Some cases of hyperplasia will go away without treatment, but it sometimes needs to be treated with hormones or even surgery. Treatment with progestins (see the section “Hormone therapy for endometrial cancer”) and a dilation and curettage (D&C) or hysterectomy can prevent hyperplasia from becoming cancerous. (D&C is described in the section “How is endometrial cancer diagnosed?) Abnormal vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom of endometrial pre-cancers and cancers, and it needs to be reported and evaluated right away.

Women with hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC, Lynch syndrome) have a very high risk of endometrial cancer. A woman with HNPCC may choose to have her uterus removed (a hysterectomy) after she has finished having children to prevent endometrial cancer. One study found that none of 61 women with HNPCC who had prophylactic (preventative) hysterectomies was later found to have endometrial cancer, while 1/3 of the women who didn't have the surgery did go on to be diagnosed with endometrial cancer over the next 7 years.


Last Medical Review: 11/04/2013
Last Revised: 02/03/2014