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Uterine cancer risk factors

A woman’s hormone balance plays a role in the development of most endometrial cancers, the most common type of uterine cancer. If a woman has one or more of uterine cancer risk factors, she may be more likely to develop endometrial cancer.

cancer risks

Uterine cancer risk factors

Some common risk factors for uterine cancer include:


  • Age: Most women diagnosed with endometrial cancer are over age 50 and have gone through menopause.
  • Number of menstrual cycles: Women who have more menstrual cycles in their lifetime have an increased endometrial cancer risk. This includes starting periods before age 12 and going through menopause after age 50.
  • Childbearing status: Researchers are still investigating why pregnancy seems to reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. During pregnancy, a woman’s hormonal balance shifts towards progesterone, which reduces estrogen. Irregular menstrual cycles and infertility also may be related to imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels, and this hormone imbalance may increase the risk for endometrial cancer.


  • Obesity: Fat tissues tend to produce higher levels of estrogen, particularly after menopause, which places older, overweight women at greater risk for this type of uterine cancer.


  • Family history: Women with a family history of endometrial, colon or ovarian cancer, including a genetic syndrome called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), may be at a higher risk of developing endometrial cancer.


  • Diabetes: Endometrial cancer is more prevalent in women with diabetes. Doctors think this may have to do with the higher obesity rates found in patients with type 2 diabetes.
  • Complex atypical endometrial hyperplasia: This precancerous condition is an increased growth of the uterine lining and may become cancerous if left untreated.
  • Ovarian tumors and syndromes: Certain ovarian syndromes, such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and ovarian tumors can increase estrogen levels and increase a woman’s risk of developing this type of uterine cancer.


  • Estrogen replacement therapy: Replacing estrogen without progesterone after menopause may increase a woman’s risk of developing this type of uterine cancer.
  • Tamoxifen: Women who are treated with the breast cancer drug, Tamoxifen, have an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer

Understanding risk factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.

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