Women's Health Matters

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Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells from the lining of the uterus. It is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs.

Approximately 3900 Canadian women are diagnosed with endometrial cancer each year.

Fortunately, the symptoms of endometrial cancer usually appear during the early stages of the disease, when it is very treatable. Endometrial cancer has the lowest death rate of any of the cancers discussed in these health centres.

Women diagnosed with endometrial cancer are usually post-menopausal. The average age is about 60. A woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer is related to her lifetime exposure to the female hormone, estrogen. Anything that increases a woman's exposure to estrogen also increases her risk of endometrial cancer. Estrogen exposure may be increased by:

  • a woman’s period starting at an early age (before the age of 12)
  • late menopause (after the age of 52)
  • never having children
  • a history of not ovulating
  • tamoxifen (a hormonal drug used to treat and reduce the risk of breast cancer)
  • estrogen replacement therapy (used to treat menopausal symptoms)

To offset the detrimental potential of estrogen replacement therapy, women can take a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen therapy increases a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer, but this risk is minimized by the addition of progesterone.

Other risk factors for endometrial cancer include:

  • diabetes
  • gallbladder disease
  • hypertension
  • obesity

Pregnancy and the use of oral contraceptives appear to provide protection against endometrial cancer.

Learn more:

Medical description | Prevention | Diagnosis | Treatment | Living with cancer

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital