Womb cancer increase is fuelled by obesity, charity has warned

Obesity is helping to fuel a sharp rise in the number of women suffering womb cancer, with Yorkshire seeing a 21 per cent increase in cases over the last decade.
Andrew Parsons/PA WireAndrew Parsons/PA Wire
Andrew Parsons/PA Wire

Ten years ago, around 22 women in every 100,000 in Yorkshire and the Humber were diagnosed with the disease, according to Cancer Research UK. That figure has now climbed to around 27 women in every 100,000 in the region – with obesity being the most likely culprit.

Around 680 women are diagnosed with womb cancer every year in Yorkshire and the Humber and around 160 die from the disease. Ten years ago, there were around 520 new cases of womb cancer diagnosed each year and around 130 women died from this disease.

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Almost 6 in 10 women in Yorkshire and the Humber are overweight or obese, figures show.

The disease kills around 2,000 women every year and around 9,000 women are now diagnosed with womb cancer every year in the UK - up from around 4,800 new cases a year 20 years ago.

Professor Jonathan Ledermann, director of the Cancer Research UK and University College London Cancer Trials Centre, said: “It’s worrying that womb cancer cases are going up so sharply.

“We don’t know all the reasons why. But we do know that about a third of cases are linked to being overweight so it’s no surprise to see the increases in womb cancer cases echo rising obesity levels,” he added.

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Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire said: “The good news is that thanks to research and improved treatments, survival has improved.

“In the 1970s, almost six in 10 women diagnosed with the disease survived for at least 10 years. Now almost eight in 10 women survive.

“But we need more research to understand the biology of the disease better and to know more about how it is caused so that we can improve the treatment of these women as well as preventing more cases.”

In January, Cancer Research UK warned that almost 700,000 more people could develop cancer in the next 20 years due to being overweight or obese.

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Ten types of cancer are linked to obesity, which can also lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and a range of other health problems.

The 10 types include womb, bowel, breast, liver, kidney, pancreas, oesophagus, and aggressive forms of ovarian and prostate cancer.

Current trends suggest almost three in four adults will be overweight or obese by 2035.

Cancer Research UK said it was not completely clear how being overweight fuels cancer, but it is thought extra fat spurs on hormones and growth factors that encourage cells to divide.

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Other - but less significant - risk factors for womb cancer include increasing age, a lack of exercise, genetic make-up and taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Symptoms of womb cancer include abnormal vaginal bleeding, particularly in post-menopausal women, blood in the urine and abdominal pain. If the disease is caught early, most women can be treated with a hysterectomy.

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “Obesity is linked to 10 different types of cancer, including womb cancer, and is the single biggest preventable cause of the disease after smoking. While there are no guarantees against cancer, keeping a healthy weight can help you stack the odds in your favour.”