Extra Pounds Suspected in Raised Endometrial Cancer Risk

SUNDAY Oct. 23, 2011 -- Gaining a significant amount of weight after menopause may be associated with an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer, a new study suggests.

"Fat tissue is the major source of circulating estrogen in postmenopausal women, and estrogen promotes the development of endometrial cancer," Victoria L. Stevens, strategic director of laboratory services at the National Home Office of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.

In conducting the study, the researchers analyzed the weight history of more than 38,000 postmenopausal women who completed a survey in 1992. By 2007, 560 of the women had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer. This is a cancer of the uterus, affecting the uterine lining.

After adjusting for body mass index (a measurement that takes into account height and weight), the study revealed the women who gained 61 pounds or more were two times more likely to develop endometrial cancer than women with stable weight.

While the study found an association between weight gain after menopause and endometrial cancer risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect.

However, Stevens concluded in the news release, "Weight gain during adulthood should be avoided to minimize risk for endometrial cancer. Women who have gained weight and are overweight or obese should continue to attempt to lose weight even though most weight loss will not be maintained."

The study authors noted that more research is needed to determine if the timing of weight gain and "yo-yo" dieting (losing and regaining weight multiple times) during adulthood play a role in women's risk for endometrial cancer and whether or not weight loss reduces this risk.

The study's findings were slated for presentation Sunday at the AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research in Boston. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about endometrial cancer.

Posted: October 2011


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