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Uterine cancer deaths are rising in the United States and are highest among Black women, a new National Cancer Institute study finds.

Researchers found that from 2010 to 2017, deaths from uterine cancer among all women increased by 1.8% per year, and deaths from nonendometroid subtypes of uterine cancer — which are more aggressive than endometroid cancers — increased by 2.7%.

When the data was analyzed by ethnicity and race, the findings showed the uterine cancer mortality rate increased 1.8% per year among white women, compared to 3.4% per year among Asian women, 3.5% among Black women and 6.7% among Hispanic women.

Despite representing less than 10% of incident cases, nearly 18% of all uterine cancer related deaths occurred in Black women. Black women also had rates more than twice those among other racial and ethnic groups for uterine cancer overall and for nonendometroid subtypes, and higher rates for endometroid carcinomas, which are relatively less common among Black women. Across all subtypes, Black women had higher mortality rates irrespective of stage at diagnosis compared with other racial and ethnic groups.

Mian Shahzad, MD, PhD, gynecological oncologist

Mian Shahzad, MD, PhD, gynecological oncologist

Dr. Mian Shahzad, a gynecological oncologist, says doctors are likely seeing the same trend at all major centers, including Moffitt Cancer Center. While more research is needed to fully understand potential causes, there are many factors that play a role.

“Black women in the study had higher mortality rates compared to other racial and ethnic groups even when they were diagnosed at the same stage. Some studies suggest that among many reasons, this may be due to nonconcordance with treatment guidelines,” said Shahzad. “Other data shows that Black women have higher rates of recurrence even when one controls several other factors like socioeconomic status and adjuvant treatment. Reasons for this are currently unknown.”

Other factors listed in the study for potential causes of these disparities are comorbidities, health care facility characteristics, patient and health care professional communication, health care professional bias, discrimination and structural racism and patient adherence. More study is needed to better understand how they influence racial disparities in uterine cancer mortality.

“The Society of Gynecologic Oncology has highlighted health disparities at the national platform this year and is at the forefront of bringing about awareness to increase funding and research in diverse populations to identify and mitigate reasons for disparities,” said Shahzad.

At Moffitt, Shahzad along with Drs. Jessica Islam and Kea Turner have recently been awarded a grant to study the role that race and ethnicity and insurance coverage play on treatment patterns and outcomes of patients with uterine cancer.