Unlike breast and ovarian cancers, which can run in some families, there is little evidence that this is the case for uterine cancer. There is no known way to prevent the disease, but several known factors increase your risk of developing uterine cancer:
- Age: You are at higher risk if you are post-menopausal and are over age 50.
- Obesity: Estrogen and progesterone are stored in the fat tissues of your body. Women who are obese have higher estrogen levels. Women who are 50 pounds above ideal body weight have a 10-fold higher chance of getting uterine cancer. Women 30 pounds above ideal body weight have a three-fold increased chance. Women who weigh more than 200 pounds have a seven-fold higher chance of getting uterine cancer than women weighing less than 125 pounds.
- Irregular menstrual periods: Obese women may not ovulate regularly during the reproductive years. This can upset the delicate balance between estrogen that encourages the development of cancer and the progestogen that protects against cancer.
- Hypertension: High blood pressure has been associated with uterine cancer, but not as strongly as some of the risk factors mentioned earlier. The relationship between hypertension and uterine cancer may be due to the fact that many women with hypertension are also obese, which is a very strong risk factor for uterine cancer.
- Diabetes: Women with diabetes have twice the risk of uterine cancer as women who do not have diabetes. As is the case with hypertension, however, many women with diabetes are also obese. It is not entirely clear how much of the increased risk in women with diabetes is due to the diabetic condition as opposed to being overweight.
- Estrogen replacement therapy: Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) has been prescribed after menopause for a variety of reasons, including prevention of hot flashes and relieving other menopausal symptoms, as well as preventing osteoporosis (a bone-thinning disease associated with estrogen depletion after menopause). However, recent major studies indicate that the health risks of using ERT, with or without progestin, clearly outweigh any health benefits, including the prevention of osteoporosis. ERT is typically prescribed only to women who no longer have a uterus because of its known risk of stimulating growth of the uterine lining — a risk factor for uterine cancer; the addition of progestin to the hormone therapy — a combination known as hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, prevents this risk for women who have not had their uterus removed.