Uncovering Reasons for Rising Uterine Cancer Death Rates
September brings attention to Gynecologic Cancers specifically five main types of cancers of women’s reproductive organs: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 113,500 people are diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer and more than 33,000 will die from the disease. Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to bring awareness to this important health issue to understand the cancer risk, warning signs, and prevention strategies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, uterine cancer is the most diagnosed gynecological cancer in the U.S. and the most common cancer overall in the United States in people with a uterus.
The rate of overall uterine cancer death rates has been increasing 1.8% per year from 2010-2017 in those forty years of age or older. A recent study published in the journal JAMA Oncology reported this rate has been increasing specifically in a rare and aggressive kind of uterine cancer called type 2 endometrial cancer, particularly in Black women.
The study also revealed racial disparities in uterine cancer death rates. Death rates from uterine cancer increased 6.7% annually among Hispanic women, 3.5% among Black women, 3.4% among Asian women and 1.5% among White women. And despite representing less than 10% of cases, nearly 18% of all deaths from uterine cancer occurred in Black women.
While any person with a uterus can develop uterine cancer, its diagnosis is usually after menopause. Risk factors include being age 50 or older, having obesity, taking estrogen alone as a hormone replacement, and having a family history of uterine, ovarian, or colon cancer. Obesity is a risk factor for the less aggressive uterine cancer, but there is no clear risk factor for the more aggressive kind according to the National Cancer Institute’s Megan Clarke, who led the study in JAMA Oncology.
Routine testing is not recommended for uterine cancer, so it is important for people to be aware of symptoms such as abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding and/or pain and pressure in the pelvic area. Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms.
On this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Kristina Butler, M.D., M.S., a Mayo Clinic gynecologic oncologist, discusses uterine cancer, disparities related to the disease, and what people can do to reduce their risk of developing this type of cancer. Click this link to view the Mayo Q & A Podcast