Lifelong excess weight doubles risk of womb cancer

  • Date: 22 April 2022

LIFELONG excess weight almost doubles the risk of developing womb cancer, according to a new study funded by Cancer Research UK.

The international study looked at genetic samples from around 120,000 women from Australia, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the UK, and the USA, of which around 13,000 had endometrial cancer, the most common type of womb cancer.

An estimated third of womb cancers are caused by being overweight or obese. It is the most common gynaecological cancer in high-income countries and is the fourth most common cancer for women in the UK, with 1 in 36 women diagnosed in their lifetime.

The study analysed the effect of lifelong greater body mass index (BMI) on womb cancer risk and found that for every five extra BMI units, a woman’s risk of endometrial cancer is almost doubled (88 per cent increase). Five BMI units is the difference between the overweight and obese categories.

The researchers looked at genetic markers of 14 molecular traits that could link obesity and womb cancer and found that obesity increases the levels of two hormones, fasting insulin and testosterone. These hormones increased the risk of being diagnosed with womb cancer.

Emma Hazelwood, lead author of the paper, commented: "Links between obesity and womb cancer are well-known, but this is one of the largest studies that has looked into exactly why that is on a molecular level. We look forward to further research exploring how we can now use this information to help reduce the risk of cancer in people struggling with obesity."

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