Simple Steps to Prevent Uterine Cancer

Experts say many cases of uterine cancer are preventable.

Women are more at risk for uterine cancer as they age, but it’s never too soon to begin prevention.

No matter your age, your weight, or your overall health, exercise is protective against getting uterine cancer.

Hormonal contraception has the non-contraceptive benefit of uterine cancer prevention. This includes protection against uterine cancer from birth control pills, progesterone only methods like DepoProvea and Nexplanon, and medicated IUDs such as Mirena, Kyleena, Skyla, and Liletta.

Women need to know that although there may be small increases in risk of breast cancer for some women taking oral contraceptives has over all cancer protection beyond protection against uterine cancer including protection against both colon and ovarian cancer.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding is known to prevent both uterine and ovarian cancer risk.

Uterine cancer and cervical cancer are very different diseases with different risk factors and different biology, but some prevention strategies are almost ‘universal’. Smoking is never healthy, but interestingly being a smoker greatly raises the risk of cervical cancer, and will slightly decrease the risk of uterine cancer.

Alcohol has no effect on endometrial, uterine cancer, risk.

Hormonal therapy, depending on the dosage, the type, the delivery system, and the health of the woman, can actually be protective against uterine cancer.

When struggling with weight control, and too much sugar in your diet, it may help you to eat better if you can focus on the positives of a healthy Mediterranean diet which lowers all cancer risks. High meat consumption is a risk factor for endometrial cancer.

Weight loss actually lowers your risk of uterine cancer, even with small amounts of decreased weight.

Diabetics, and those with pre-diabetes, and those who are obese are also at risk for uterine cancer, but this may just be due to the dietary factors we have discussed.

Women need to know that overall exposure to radiation which we even get in everyday life in very small amounts, over time, can increase your risk of uterine and other cancers. Before you have tests with the most radiation, such as cat scans, take that risk into consideration verse the benefit of the test.

Screening tests alone cannot determine cancer, they can only direct you to other testing which will answer that question and potentially pick up precancerous conditions which for uterine cancer is endometrial hyperplasia. And for uterine cancer pelvic ultrasounds are the best screening tests, but it would be important to discuss what type of testing to have with your own gynecologic health provider. Actually some uterine cancers can be detected on pap smear, so it’s important to be current on those.

Some things, like your family history, aren’t specifically a prevention strategy, but this knowledge can trigger prevention steps. Family history of uterine cancer is an important history factor you should share with your gynecologist as there may be tests or exams she will want you to complete more regularly.

Cancer prevention begins long before any signs or symptoms of uterine cancer can occur, but there are some signs to be aware of. Irregular bleeding is the first sign of uterine cancer, and irregular cycles should always be evaluated. Thickening of the uterine lining and/or endometrial polyps can be precancerous conditions of the uterus that should be treated. Oddly lower back pains, upper hip pains, and just abdominal symptoms themselves could be a less common but possible sign of uterine cancer.

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Suzanne Trupin, MD, Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist and owner of Women's Health Practice, Hada Cosmetic Medicine, and Hatha Yoga and Fitness

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