From June 4-8, 2021, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) held its Annual Meeting to discuss trends and research within the oncology field. According to Cancer Therapy Advisor, one such discussion centered around the potential association between obesity and endometrial cancer. In the past, obesity has been linked to this form of cancer in postmenopausal women. However, the same association has not previously been shown in younger women. Within this particular study, researchers determined that rising endometrial cancer rates within this group does correlate with a rise in obesity. The data, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, can also be found as Abstract #5578.
To begin, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines obesity as:
abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. Obesity is a Body Mass Index [BMI] greater than or equal to 30.
In this research, the researchers wanted to understand the association between obesity and endometrial cancer in adult women between ages 20-39. The data was from a 17-year period. Additional data on women between ages 18-34 was sourced from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys spanning from 1988-2014. Altogether, researchers discovered that:
- The prevalence of endometrial cancer rose from the early 2000s to the late 2000s. Overall, within their data, researchers identified 24,446 diagnoses.
- Women aged 20-29 saw rates of endometrial cancer double between 2001 to 2017. For those aged 30-39, the number also significantly increased over the same period.
- During this same time period, obesity increased within this demographic. Thus, the rising endometrial cancer rates correlate with the heightened obesity.
- Hispanic women were much more likely to be obese and have this form of cancer compared to those of other backgrounds.
Ultimately, researchers determined that increasing obesity rates could play a role in rising endometrial cancer diagnoses within this group. Thus, additional cancer screening should be considered for those of certain backgrounds, as well as patients with specific and abnormal symptoms, such as bleeding or spotting outside of menstruation.
Endometrial cancer develops in the endometrium, or the uterine lining. Although other cancers may also form within the uterus, this is the most common form of uterine cancer. Risk factors include early menstruation or late menopause, never being pregnant, being obese, having hormone therapy for breast cancer, being older, or changes in female hormones. Although younger women are beginning to be diagnosed with this cancer at a higher rate, around 95% of all diagnoses are in women aged 40+.
Typically, this form of cancer is diagnosed early due to the development of abnormal symptoms. Some symptoms include:
- Vaginal bleeding that occurs after menopause
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods
- Changes in the length or severity of menstrual periods
- Watery or bloody vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain
- Painful or difficult urination
- Pain during sexual intercourse
Learn more about endometrial cancer here.