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What Are the Risk Factors for Uterine Cancer?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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There are many factors that may increase a woman’s risk of developing uterine cancer, including hormone fluctuations that upset the balance of estrogen and progesterone in the body, early menstruation, or late onset of menopause. A woman may also have an increased risk for developing uterine cancer if she has never been pregnant or is an older woman. Hormone therapy and a syndrome that involves colon cancer also translate into increased risks of this type of cancer.

One of the risk factors for uterine cancer involves the imbalance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in the body. In a healthy woman, estrogen and progesterone are in balance with each other. When something upsets this and allows estrogen to dominate for an extended time, a woman may face an increased risk of developing uterine cancer. Some examples of conditions in which estrogen may be allowed to dominate are polycystic ovarian syndrome and diabetes. Even obesity, however, may cause or contribute to this issue.

Certain issues with a woman’s menstrual cycle also can be risk factors for uterine cancer. If a woman began menstruating before she was 12 years old, for instance, she has an increased risk of developing cancer of the uterus. Likewise, a woman who enters menopause at a later age has an increased risk. In both case, this increase is a result of extended exposure to estrogen simply because the woman will have menstrual cycles for a longer time.

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Some of the risk factors of uterine cancer have to do with age and pregnancy. An older woman, for example, has an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Likewise, a woman who has never been pregnant is more likely to develop it. Even a single pregnancy may lower a woman's risk of developing a cancerous tumor in this part of the body.

Hormone therapies also have a negative effect on a woman’s uterine cancer risk. For example, a woman who takes a drug called tamoxifen for the treatment of breast cancer faces an increased risk. Likewise, women who undergo hormone replacement therapy that includes estrogen but not progestin, a man-made type of progesterone, have increased chances of developing this type of cancer.

Interestingly, there is also a connection between a colon cancer syndrome and the development of uterine cancer. A woman who has hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer faces an increased risk. She may prove more likely to develop other types of cancer as well.

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