Obesity Driving Increase in Uterus Cancer

Monday 23 September, 2013

New figures released today for the launch of Cancer Council's Girls' Night In campaign show the number of Victorian women diagnosed with uterus cancer is set to rise by 60% in the next 15 years (from 577 diagnoses per year to 900) as the number of younger women facing the disease grows.

The age standardised incidence rate for uterus cancer has been increasing at 0.6% annually over the past 20 years - or, by around 10 diagnoses each year in Victoria. The increase has been much higher for women aged under 50 years; 1.8% annually compared with 0.3-0.4 per cent for older women.

This significant increasing trend for younger women can almost certainly be attributed to rising levels of obesity. Figures from around the globe show that other countries, like the US and Canada, are experiencing similar increases. In the UK, one third of uterus cancers have been attributed to excess body weight .

Uterus cancer mainly occurs in the lining of the womb (the endometrium) and is often described as endometrial cancer. It is distinct from cancer occurring at the neck of the womb (cervix).

The figures were released by the Victorian Cancer Registry to launch Girls' Night In, a campaign that encourages women to host a night in with their girlfriends during October to raise funds for breast and gynaecological cancers. Funds raised will go towards the Cancer Council's research, prevention programs, and support services.

Cancer Council Victoria spokesperson Deb Stringer said a uterus cancer diagnosis could be especially heart breaking for younger women.

"Most young women have their uterus cancers diagnosed early and the prognosis is good, but the treatment can have long-term, life-changing implications. The consequences of surgically removing the uterus, and very often the ovaries, can be earth shattering for a woman who wants to start a family or have more children," Ms Stringer said.

"The rising number of women facing uterus cancer shows how important it is we invest in research and prevention programs, as well as support for those women facing a diagnosis."

Encouragingly, survival from uterus cancer is increasing. In the past 20 years five-year survival has increased from 77% to 84%, and is highest for those who are diagnosed early. For those aged under 45 years, five-year survival is 95%.

Ms Stringer said Girls' Night In was a unique campaign, as it gave women the opportunity to fundraise for both breast and gynaecological cancers, including uterus cancer.

"Uterus cancer, like many other gynaecological cancers, doesn't tend to receive the same attention that other cancers do, but it's the fifth most common cancer diagnosis for Victorian women. We believe it deserves more attention, especially in the face of the increasing number of diagnoses.

"The beauty of our Girls' Night In campaign is it raises funds for all breast and gynaecological cancers including uterus, ovary and cervix cancers. After all, we think any woman facing cancer - no matter what type - deserves the best possible outcome and to have people out there fighting for them."

To register as a Girls' Night In host, visit www.girlsnightin.com.au or call 1300 65 65 85.

1 http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/keyfacts/uterine-cancer-key-facts/

2 The Victorian Cancer Registry is a population-based cancer registry run by Cancer Council Victoria. It aims to provide comprehensive, accurate and timely information for cancer control.