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What is cancer prevention?
Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. By preventing cancer, the number of new cases of cancer in a group or population is lowered. Hopefully, this will lower the number of deaths caused by cancer.
To prevent new cancers from starting, scientists look at risk factors and protective factors. Anything that increases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer risk factor; anything that decreases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer protective factor.
Some risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but many cannot. For example, both smoking and inheriting certain genes are risk factors for some types of cancer, but only smoking can be avoided. Regular exercise and a healthy diet may be protective factors for some types of cancer. Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may lower your risk but it does not mean that you will not get cancer.
Different ways to prevent cancer are being studied, including:
- Changing lifestyle or eating habits.
- Avoiding things known to cause cancer.
- Taking medicines to treat a precancerous condition or to keep cancer from starting.
Endometrial cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the endometrium.
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus. The uterus is part of the female reproductive system. It is a hollow, pear-shaped, muscular organ in the pelvis, where a fetus grows.
Cancer of the endometrium is different from cancer of the muscle of the uterus, which is called sarcoma of the uterus.
Endometrial cancer is the most common invasive cancer of the female reproductive system.
Endometrial cancer usually occurs in women after menopause, and affects more white women than black women. Black women diagnosed with endometrial cancer are more likely to have more advanced disease at diagnosis, and are more likely to die from endometrial cancer than white women.
Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.
Avoiding cancer risk factors such as smoking, being overweight, and lack of exercise may help prevent certain cancers. Increasing protective factors such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.
The following risk factors may increase the risk of endometrial cancer:
Estrogen is a hormone made by the body. It helps the body develop and maintain female sex characteristics. Estrogen can affect the growth of some cancers, including endometrial cancer. A woman's risk of developing endometrial cancer is increased by being exposed to estrogen in the following ways:
- Estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy: Estrogen may be given to
replace the estrogen no longer produced by the ovaries in postmenopausal
women or women whose ovaries have been removed. This is called hormone
replacement therapy (HRT), or hormone therapy (HT). The use of hormone
replacement therapy that contains only estrogen increases the risk of
endometrial cancer. For this reason, estrogen therapy alone is usually
prescribed only for women who do not have a uterus.
When estrogen is combined with progestin (another hormone), it is called combination estrogen-progestin replacement therapy. For postmenopausal women, taking estrogen in combination with progestin does not increase the risk of endometrial cancer.
- Early menstruation: Beginning to have menstrual periods at an early age
increases the number of years the body is exposed to estrogen and increases
a woman's risk of endometrial cancer.
- Late menopause: Women who reach menopause at an older age are exposed to
estrogen for a longer time and have an increased risk of endometrial cancer.
- Never being pregnant: Because estrogen levels are lower during pregnancy, women who have never been pregnant are exposed to estrogen for a longer time than women who have been pregnant. This increases the risk of endometrial cancer.
Tamoxifen is one of a group of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators, or SERMs. Tamoxifen acts like estrogen on some tissues in the body, such as the uterus, but blocks the effects of estrogen on other tissues, such as the breast. When tamoxifen is used to prevent breast cancer in women who are at high risk for the disease, it increases the risk of endometrial cancer. This risk is greater in postmenopausal women.
Raloxifene is a SERM that is used to prevent bone weakness in postmenopausal women. It does not have estrogen-like effects on the uterus and has not been shown to increase the risk of endometrial cancer. Other SERMs are being studied in clinical trials.
Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC) syndrome is an inherited disorder caused by changes in certain genes. Women who have HNPCC syndrome have a much higher risk of developing endometrial cancer than women who do not have HNPCC syndrome.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (a disorder of the hormones made by the ovaries) have an increased risk of endometrial cancer.
Obesity increases the risk of endometrial cancer. This may be because obesity is related to other risk factors such as estrogen levels, polycystic ovary syndrome, lack of physical activity, and a diet that is high in saturated fats.
It is not known if losing weight decreases the risk of endometrial cancer.
The following protective factors may decrease the risk of endometrial cancer:
Combination oral contraceptives
Taking contraceptives that combine estrogen and progestin (combination oral contraceptives) decreases the risk of endometrial cancer. The protective effect of combination oral contraceptives increases with the length of time they are used, and can last for many years after oral contraceptive use has been stopped.
Physical activity may lower the risk of endometrial cancer.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding
Estrogen levels are lower during pregnancy and when breast-feeding. Being pregnant and/or breast-feeding may lower the risk of endometrial cancer.
A diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of endometrial cancer. The risk may also be lowered when soy -based foods are a regular part of the diet.
Cancer prevention clinical trials are used to study ways to prevent cancer.
Cancer prevention clinical trials are used to study ways to lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Some cancer prevention trials are conducted with healthy people who have not had cancer but who have an increased risk for cancer. Other prevention trials are conducted with people who have had cancer and are trying to prevent another cancer of the same type or to lower their chance of developing a new type of cancer. Other trials are done with healthy volunteers who are not known to have any risk factors for cancer.
The purpose of some cancer prevention clinical trials is to find out whether actions people take can prevent cancer. These may include eating fruits and vegetables, exercising, quitting smoking, or taking certain medicines, vitamins, minerals, or food supplements.
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BreastfeedingIt's important to know whether you will breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby prior to delivery, as the breasts' ability to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. Breast milk is easily digested by babies and contains infection-fighting antibodies and cholesterol, which promotes brain growth. Formula-fed babies actually need to eat somewhat less often since formula is less readily digested by the baby than human milk. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of feeding.
CA 125CA 125 is a protein, and a tumor marker or biomarker. CA 125 is present in greater concentration in ovarian cancer cells than in other cells. CA stands for cancer antigen. Increases in CA 125 can also occur with malignant tumors of the Fallopian tubes, lining of the uterus, lung, breast, and gastrointestinal track. Benign conditions such as infections of the abdomen, chest, menstruation, endometriosis, benign tumors of the ovaries, and liver disease can also raise CA 125.
CancerCancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Cancer-Fighting FoodsExperts have praised certain foods for their ability to reduce cancer risks. Learn which foods and eating strategies may help reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Colon CancerColon cancer (bowel cancer) is a malignancy that arises from the inner lining of the colon. Most, if not all, of these cancers develop from colonic polyps. Removal of these precancerous polyps can prevent colon cancer.
Hormone TherapyEstrogen therapy, estrogen/progestin therapy, and hormone therapy are terms that refer to the administration of estrogen or estrogen/progestin for the purpose of suppressing hot flashes. Side effects of hormone therapy include:
- breast pain,
- blood clots,
- breast cancer,
- heart disease,
- abnormal vaginal bleeding,
- and uterine cancer.
MenopauseMenopause is the time in a woman's life when menstrual periods permanently stop, also called the "change of life." Menopause symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, irregular vaginal bleeding, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, urinary incontinence, weight gain, and emotional symptoms such as mood swings. Treatment of menopausal symptoms varies, and should be discussed with your physician.
Nature vs Nurture Theory Genes or Environment
In the nature vs. nurture debate, "nature" represents our genetic makeup. These are the genes you have inherited from your biological family, and that may affect your physical and mental health, for example, intelligence, disease, and psychological health. While "nurture" represents how our environment effects our intelligence, traits, personality, and mental and physical health. Studies have shown that a person's environment can alter his or her genes, and lower their risk of developing certain inherited diseases, conditions, and mental illnesses that run in his or her family.
Hippocrates studied and theorized how our biology affected our overall health and disease development. In 1869, Sir Francis Galton was credited for the term "Nature vs. Nurture Theory." Today it is widely recognized that both your genes and your environment effect both your physical and mental health.
Researchers and doctors have found that particular physical traits like eye and skin color, and diseases like Huntington's chorea are the result of genetic inheritance (inherited from a family member). However, patterns of thinking and behavior can be attributed to both nature and nurture (your genes and your environment). Moreover, researchers who study the brain have found overwhelming evidence that a person's genetic factors and his or her experiences guide and support brain development. The human brain produces new nerve cells (neurons) into adulthood, and these nerve cells can change the strength of their connections throughout life, which can effect intelligence and other factors. Research also has shown that sensory input (sights, smells, sounds, touch, etc.) has a critical in the role of brain development in the first few days of our lives, and probably throughout our life.
The controversy over how much our genes and environment effect our psychological and physical health still continues, however.
NCBI. PubMed.gov. Brain development and the nature versues nurture debate. Prog Brain Res. 2011;189:3-22. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53884-0.00015-4.
NCBI Resources. Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2008.
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Symptoms of Serious Diseases and Health ProblemsLearn how to recognize early warning signs and symptoms of serious diseases and health problems, for example, chronic cough, headache, chest pain, nausea, stool color or consistency changes, heartburn, skin moles, anxiety, nightmares, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, delusions, lightheadedness, night sweats, eye problems, confusion, depression, severe pelvic or abdominal pain, unusual vaginal discharge, and nipple changes.
The symptoms and signs of serious health problems can be caused by strokes, heart attacks, cancers, reproductive problems in females (for example, cancers, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and sexually transmitted diseases or STDs), breast problems (for example, breast cancer and non-cancer related diseases), lung diseases (for example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, lung cancer, emphysema, and asthma), stomach or digestive diseases (for example, cancers, gallbladder, liver, and pancreatic diseases, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease), bladder problems (for example, urinary incontinence, and kidney infections), skin cancer, muscle and joint problems, emotional problems or mental illness (for example, postpartum depression, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mania, and schizophrenia), and headache disorders (for example, migraines, or "the worst headache of your life), and eating disorders and weight problems (for example, anorexia or bulimia).
Uterine CancerThough uterine cancer's cause is unknown, there are many factors that will put a woman at risk, including being over age 50, having endometrial hyperplasia, using hormone replacement therapy, obesity, using tamoxifen, being Caucasian, and/or having colorectal cancer. Symptoms and signs of cancer of the uterus (endometrial cancer) include abnormal vaginal bleeding, painful urination, painful intercourse, and pelvic pain. Treatment depends on staging and may include radiation therapy or hormone therapy.
Female Cancer SymptomsCancer symptoms can surprise women if they don't know what to watch out for. 15 cancer symptoms women ignore such as weight loss, bloating, breast changes, unusual bleeding, skin changes, difficulty swallowing, indigestion, and more. Learn possible clues to finding and detecting cancer early.