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Every 5 extra BMI units increase woman’s risk of womb (endometrial) cancer

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A woman’s risk of womb (endometrial) cancer nearly doubles for every 5 BMI units she gains, says new study.

According to a study funded by Cancer Research UK and published today in BMC Medicine, a woman’s lifetime excess weight nearly doubles her risk of developing womb cancer.

The University of Bristol study is one of the first to discover that a woman’s risk of womb (endometrial) cancer nearly doubles for every 5 extra BMI units (increase of 88 percent ).

This is higher than most previous research have revealed, and it reflects weight status throughout time rather than a snapshot in time, as most other studies do.

The difference in BMI units between overweight and obese is 5 units, approximately two stone in the case of a 5’5 adult woman.

Around 120,000 women from Australia, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States were studied, with around 13,000 of them having womb cancer.

This comprehensive statistical investigation is one of the first of its type to look at the impact of a higher BMI throughout one’s life on the risk of womb cancer.

The researchers looked at 14 variables that may be linked to obesity and womb cancer. They discovered that two hormones, fasting insulin and testosterone, enhanced the risk of womb cancer diagnosis.

Scientists may be able to use medications to reduce or enhance the level of these hormones in people who are already at a higher risk of cancer if they can determine exactly how obesity increases the risk of cancer, such as through hormones.

Drugs used to treat diabetes, such as metformin, can lower hormone levels, and evidence suggests that this drug may potentially alter cancer risk, however further research is needed.

Womb cancer is one of the cancers most closely associated with obesity. In high-income nations, it’s the most prevalent gynaecological cancer, and it’s the fourth most common cancer for women in the UK, with one in every 36 women being diagnosed at some point in their lives. And it’s thought that almost a third of womb cancer cases in the UK are caused by being overweight or obese.

In the United Kingdom, being overweight or obese is the second most avoidable cause of cancer. Excess weight is thought to be the cause of more than one in every 20 cancer cases in the country.

“Links between obesity and womb cancer are well-known but this is one of the largest studies which has looked into exactly why that is on a molecular level,” says Emma Hazelwood, lead author of the paper, adding “we look forward to further research exploring how we can now use this information to help reduce the risk of cancer in people struggling with obesity.”

Image Credit: Getty

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