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Womb cancer increase fuelled by obesity, charity warns

Published 13/04/2016

Around 9,000 women are now diagnosed with womb cancer every year in the UK
Around 9,000 women are now diagnosed with womb cancer every year in the UK

Obesity is fuelling a massive jump in the number of women suffering womb cancer.

The number diagnosed with the disease has almost doubled in 20 years, while population rates of womb cancer have also seen a rise, Cancer Research UK warned.

From 1993 to 1995, around 19 women in every 100,000 developed womb cancer in the UK, rising to 29 women in every 100,000 by 2011-13 (the most recent figures available).

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.

The disease kills around 2,000 women every year.

Professor Jonathan Ledermann, director of the Cancer Research UK and UCL 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.

"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.

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 are of the womb, bowel, breast, gallbladder, 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.

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.

Kath Bebbington, 56 from Stoneclough, Greater Manchester, was diagnosed after bleeding between periods.

She has since lost 3st in weight.

She said: "My cancer diagnosis was a wake-up call for me. It was a shock because I don't smoke, I don't drink and I walk a lot.

"And we don't know what caused the cancer, but I had to admit to myself that I needed to make some lifestyle changes to lose some extra pounds I had been carrying, and stack the odds in my favour for a healthy future."

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: "It's concerning that more women are developing womb cancer, but it's important that they are informed about ways to reduce their risk of the disease.

"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 and has lots of other benefits too."

Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: "We know that being overweight or obese increases our risk of some cancers, which is why it's important to keep an eye on portion sizes and cut back on calories, sugar and fat in the diet."

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