Uterine cancer is the most common female gynecological cancer in the United States. Almost 3% of American women are estimated to develop uterine cancer in their lifetime, which is the 7th leading cause of cancer deaths. Uterine cancer most commonly occurs in women over the age of 50. Most women with uterine cancer develop vaginal bleeding or vaginal discharge which often results in early detection. Approximately 75% of women are diagnosed in Stage 1 which has a 5 year survival rate of 90%.
Obesity increases the risk of uterine cancer because fat tissue produces excessive estrogen which stimulates the uterine lining. Other risk factors include diabetes, hypertension, polycystic ovarian syndrome, infertility and never having children.
Tamoxifen, which is a medication used to prevent recurrence of breast cancer, can increase the risk of uterine cancer. Long term use of high dose estrogen without using progesterone, can also increase the risk of uterine cancer.
Some women have a genetic predisposition for developing uterine cancer. Lynch syndrome is a genetic mutation which leads to an increased risk of uterine cancer, colon cancer and ovarian cancer.
Any vaginal bleeding which develops after a woman has gone through menopause should be evaluated for the possibility of uterine cancer. Obese younger woman with history of infrequent menses and/or abnormal vaginal bleeding such as prolonged bleeding (more than 7 days), heavy bleeding, or irregular bleeding, should also be evaluated for abnormal changes in the uterus which could be precancerous or cancer.