Obesity and the rise of endometrial cancer in young women


By Jennifer Gunter
SF Sexual Health Examiner

July 6, 2009

There are more than 40,000 new cases of endometrial cancer every year in the United States and more than 7,500 women die annually from this disease. The majority of endometrial cancers are the result of an imbalance between the two major female reproductive hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen stimulates the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) to grow and progesterone keeps that growth in check. Too much estrogen and/ or too little progesterone and the unruly endometrium can turn cancerous.
Doctors have long known obesity is a risk factor for endometrial cancer. Not only does obesity increase estrogen levels, as fatty tissue converts other steroid hormones into estrogen, but obese women are also less likely to ovulate on a regular basis. This results in a progesterone deficiency as the hormone progesterone is only produced at ovulation.
A new study published in the July issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology sheds more light on the magnitude of the connection between obesity and endometrial cancer, especially for younger women. This study evaluated almost 3,500 women between the ages of 20 and 54. The results obesity increased the risk of endometrial cancer for all women, but more so for women between the ages of 20 and 45. Based on body mass index or BMI (a BMI of 19-24 is normal), women who were overweight (BMI 25 – 29.9) were almost 3 times more likely to develop endometrial cancer than their normal weight counterparts. Women with a BMI between 30 and 34.9 were 6 times more likely to develop endometrial cancer and those women with a BMI of 35 and older were almost 22 times more likely to develop the disease.


Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.