By Pat Carragher - May 01, 2023
In 2018, Hispanic women had the highest uterine cancer rates among women ages 35 to 39. According to a study published in the journal Gynecologic Oncology, that rate was double what was found in non-Hispanic white women. Even more concerning, researchers say cases have been rising a steady 4% each year since 2001.
Dr. Monica Avila, a gynecologic oncologist in the Gynecologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, says it’s been well known that Hispanic and Black women have a higher risk of developing uterine cancer, also known as endometrial cancer. The study points to an alarming trend of when these cases are beginning to occur.
“Most cases of uterine cancer happen in the post-menopausal stage,” Avila said. “The concern is that this cancer is not only rising, but rising in patients who are premenopausal and in their younger reproductive ages.”
"The concern is that this cancer is not only rising, but rising in patients who are premenopausal and in their younger reproductive ages."- Dr. Monica Avila, Gynecologic Oncology Program
According to Avila, there are multiple types of uterine cancers. The most common type is endometrioid cancer. It starts when cells in the inner lining of the uterus start to grow out of control. Endometrioid cancer can often be cured. Type 2 endometrioid cancers are more likely to grow and spread outside the uterus. Uterine sarcoma is a very rare type of uterine cancer forming in the muscle layer. This type is often more aggressive and harder to treat.
For the study, researchers looked at nearly 850,000 women with uterine cancer from 2001-18. While the disparity among Hispanics is clear, experts are still trying to figure out what’s behind the rise.
“Currently we have about 66,000 women each year being diagnosed with uterine cancer,” Avila said. “By the year 2030, this could almost double to 122,000 cases, which is ridiculous.”
Obesity and diabetes are two known factors that can raise a woman’s risk of uterine cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both conditions are found disproportionately in Hispanic people. In the U.S., Hispanic adults have a 17% risk of developing diabetes compared to 8% in non-Hispanic white adults.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, 78% of Hispanic American women are overweight or obese, compared to 64% of non-Hispanic white women.
“While those risk factors are considered modifiable, there is no definitive evidence to say how much they can reduce risk,” Avila said. “If the weight loss isn’t fast or effective enough to decrease your risk of uterine cancer and obesity is here to stay, then we might be looking at a new era where we’re taking out uteri just to prevent cancer.”