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Endometrial cancer (also referred to as uterine cancer), which begins in the endometrial cells lining the uterus, is a significant health concern affecting women worldwide. While its exact causes are still unknown, experts continue to make strides in unraveling the complexities of this disease. By gaining insights into endometrial cancer's causes and risk factors, Moffitt Cancer Center aims to help women gain the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about their health and to know when to seek medical attention.

Nurses asks patient about her endometrial cancer risk factors

What causes endometrial cancer?

While the exact cause of endometrial cancer is not fully understood, key factors contribute to its progression:

  • Genetic mutations – Mutations in healthy uterine cells can disrupt normal growth, leading to uncontrolled multiplication and potential tumor formation.
  • Hormonal imbalance – Estrogen and progesterone, the female sex hormones, play a crucial role. An imbalance—particularly an excess of estrogen—can trigger abnormal endometrial cell growth and potentially lead to cancer.

Endometrial cancer risk factors

Although several risk factors have been identified for endometrial cancer, it's important to recognize that these factors do not guarantee the development of the disease. Many women with multiple risk factors do not develop endometrial cancer, and some with cancer lack identifiable risk factors. Individual cases vary, making it challenging to attribute the cancer solely to one factor.

Endometrial cancer risk factors you can change

Some of the risk factors that are associated with endometrial cancer are within our control, and can be reduced or eliminated through lifestyle changes. These risk factors include:

  • Estrogen therapy – Use of estrogen therapy without progesterone, often for menopausal symptom management, can elevate the risk.
  • Menstrual cycles – Increased lifetime menstrual cycles, including early menstruation and late menopause, can contribute to higher cancer risk. While the timing of these events is out of our hands, oral contraceptives can offer protection by suppressing ovulation and reducing estrogen exposure.
  • Body weight – Excess body weight can lead to heightened estrogen production, increasing the risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Tamoxifen use – The breast cancer treatment tamoxifen may increase estrogen levels in the uterus, elevating the risk of endometrial cancer.

Endometrial cancer risk factors you can’t change

Other risk factors for endometrial cancer are completely outside of our control, such as: 

  • Age – Risk increases with age, especially after 60, due to hormonal changes associated with menopause.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – Imbalanced hormone levels from PCOS can contribute to a higher endometrial cancer risk.
  • Lynch syndrome – This inherited gene mutation condition substantially raises the risk of various cancers, including endometrial cancer.

Endometrial cancer prevention

Endometrial cancer prevention involves a combination of awareness, proactive measures and regular medical care. While some risk factors are beyond your control, adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of developing endometrial cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise is crucial. Additionally, discussing hormone replacement therapies and hormonal contraceptives with healthcare professionals and considering alternative treatments can help manage hormonal imbalances.

Common endometrial cancer causes & risk factor FAQs

These FAQs offer more information about the causes and risk factors of endometrial cancer:

Get the endometrial cancer help you need at Moffitt Cancer Center

Moffitt Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida, remains at the forefront of endometrial cancer research and treatment. We offer cutting-edge screenings, diagnosis and therapies, all within a single location and without the need for a referral. Our commitment to continual research and innovation ensures that our patients receive the highest quality care.

For further insights into endometrial cancer risk factors or to schedule an appointment, contact us at 1-888-663-3488 or complete our online new patient registration form. We understand the urgency of a cancer scare and aim to connect you with our expert team promptly.


Endometrial Cancer Risk Factors

Uterine Cancer: Lynch Syndrome | SGO

Uterine Cancer | CDC