32829 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Risk Factors for Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer

    A risk factor is something that increases your chances of developing cancer.
    It is possible to develop uterine or endometrial cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. In fact, the majority of women who are diagnosed with uterine cancer have no known risk factors for the disease. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing uterine or endometrial cancer. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
    Many risk factors associated with uterine cancer are associated with increased levels of the hormone estrogen. The body normally produces estrogen and progesterone, and keeps these hormones in balance. If something causes estrogen levels to rise, the woman may be at increased risk of uterine cancer.
    Risk factors for uterine or endometrial cancer include the following:


    Being obese may increase your risk of uterine cancer, especially if you go through menopause early, prior to age 45. Obesity may alter hormone levels, increasing exposure of the uterine lining to estrogen.

    Medical Conditions and Treatments

    Several medical conditions and treatments are associated with increased risk of uterine cancer. These include:
    • Diabetes mellitus—the relationship between diabetes and increased uterine cancer risk is not clearly understood, but may also be related to obesity.
    • Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer—This is a rare, hereditary condition in which many family members develop bowel tumors and other tumors. The lifetime risk of developing uterine cancer is close to 50% in women in these families.
    • Tamoxifen —a drug used in the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.
    • Patients with polycystic ovary syndrome and granulose theca cell tumors of the ovary—the increased risk of uterine cancer is likely a result of increased estrogen levels.
    • Menopausal use of estrogen without progesterone—studies show an increased risk when estrogen is taken alone, without progesterone, for relief of menopause symptoms.
    • Radiation therapy to the pelvic area—previous cancer treatment with radiation may increase your risk of uterine cancer.


    Uterine cancer occurs more frequently in older women. Eighty percent of patients have gone through menopause. Only 5% of cases are diagnosed in women younger than 40, and these women usually have polycystic ovary syndrome.

    Reproductive History

    Women who have never been pregnant are a greater risk for uterine cancer. Progesterone levels increase during pregnancy, which may offer a protective benefit. Menstruating at an early age or a late menopause is also associated with increased risk. Both of these events increase a woman’s lifetime exposure to estrogen.


    Bast R. Cancer Medicine . 5th ed. Hamilton, Ontario: BC Decker Inc; 2000.

    Endometrial cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/types/endometrial . Accessed August 31, 2009.

    Rakel R. Conn's Current Therapy 2002 . 54th ed. St. Louis, MO: WB Saunders Company; 2002: 1094-1096.

    What are the risk factors for endometrial cancer? American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI%5F2%5F4%5F2X%5FWhat%5Fare%5Fthe%5Frisk%5Ffactors%5Ffor%5Fendometrial%5Fcancer.asp . Updated July 2008. Accessed August 31, 2009.

    8/31/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Thomas CC, Wingo PA, Dolan MS, Lee NC, Richardson LC. Endometrial cancer risk among younger, overweight women. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;114:22-27.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.