Rise in Womb Cancer in Wales Linked to Obesity

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The number of women in Wales suffering from cancer of the womb has almost doubled over the past 20 years and according to a leading cancer charity, obesity is to blame.

Statistics from Cancer Research UK reveal that around 120 women die of womb cancer every year. Around 21 in every 100,000 Welsh women developed uterine (womb) cancer in the early 1990s, but the figure has soared to 32 in every 100,000 today.

There were around 290 new womb cancer cases in 1993, causing 90 deaths. Twenty years later, there were 120 deaths from 540 diagnoses.

Now, about 9,000 UK women develop womb cancer each year. This has risen from about 4,800 annual new cases two decades ago.

Charity Cancer Research UK say the most likely factor behind the rise is obesity. The most recent figures also show that half of Wales’ women are overweight.

Director of the UCL Cancer Trials Centre and Cancer Research UK, Professor Jonathan Ledermann, noted how worrying it is that cases of womb cancer are seeing such a sharp rise. He said that although the reasons for this rise are unknown, about one third of womb cancer cases are associated with obesity. Therefore he said, it is not surprising to see that the increasing obesity levels echo the rise in womb cancer cases.

Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Wales, Karen Davis, said that research and improvements in treatment have improved survival rates. She said that almost 6 in 10 women diagnosed with uterine cancer survived for at least a decade. With recent advancement, today nearly 8 in 10 women survive.

Ms Davies said that despite this, more research is necessary to understand the biology of womb cancer better and to find out more about its causes so that treatment can be improved and more cases prevented. She added that 10 types of cancer, including womb cancer, are linked to obesity and after smoking, it is the single biggest preventable cause. She did stress that though there is no guarantee against cancer, remaining at a healthy weight can help to stack the odds in your favour, as well as presenting a wealth of other benefits.

Head of health information at Cancer Research UK, Dr Julie Sharp, is concerned that more women are developing womb cancer. She said it’s important that women are informed about how to reduce their risk of suffering from the disease.

In January 2016, Cancer Research UK issued a warning that nearly 700,000 more people could develop cancer in the next 20 years due to obesity. Obesity is also linked to type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and many other serious health conditions.

Cancer Research UK have said it’s unclear how obesity can lead to cancer but it is thought that extra fat speeds up hormones and growth factors that encourage the division of cells. Other risk factors for womb cancer include lack of exercise, hormone replacement therapy, genetic make-up and increasing age.