Three out of every five new cases of endometrial cancer in the U.S. could be prevented if women were physically active and a healthy weight, according to a report published today by the American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund International, which analyzes the latest research from around the world.
The new evidence also shows that drinking coffee— both decaffeinated and caffeinated—can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. Experts at AICR cautioned, however, that there is not yet enough information to definitively determine which amounts would protect against the disease.
Additionally, the AICR/WCRF Continuous Update Project (CUP) report found that a high-glycemic-load diet (a diet high in sugary foods, sugary drinks and processed foods high in carbohydrates) increases risk.
The new report found strong evidence that carrying excess body fat is a cause of endometrial cancer, and that regular physical activity protects against it.
Based on the new findings, AICR now estimates that most cases of endometrial cancer (59 percent, or about 29,500 every year) could be prevented in the U.S. if women were active for at least 30 minutes a day and maintained a healthy body weight (between 18.5 and 25 BMI).
Common cancer can be made less so
Endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system. More cases of endometrial cancer occur each year in the U.S. (approximately 49,600) than ovarian cancer and cervical cancer combined.
Leading expert Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD, is an AICR/WCRF CUP Panel member and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. "Many women are not aware of the strong link between obesity and cancer, which is particularly strong for endometrial cancer," she said, "however, it is good news that many cases could be prevented every year by maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active.
"The AICR/WCRF Continuous Update Project Report: Preventing Endometrial Cancer follows CUP reports on pancreatic, breast and colorectal cancers in showing the importance of lifestyle factors in preventing cancer and, like those previous reports, uses the most up-to-date research to inform people how we can cut our risk."
AICR Nutrition Communications Manager Alice Bender, MS, RD said: "Research has shown that AICR/WCRF's Recommendations for Cancer Prevention can save lives. We know many American women can reduce their risk of endometrial cancer, as well as other cancers, heart disease and diabetes; this is a great reason to take a look at your diet and physical activity, and take steps to move more and eat smarter."
Most cases of endometrial cancer are diagnosed in women over age 60. There is no reliable screening system to detect endometrial cancer.
Scientists list several reasons that body weight, physical activity and other lifestyle factors affect the risk of cancer. Notably, fat cells release hormones that can spur the development of some cancers. Regular activity can help regulate hormone levels, strengthen the immune system and help maintain a healthy digestive system.
In laboratory studies some coffee components, including chlorogenic acid, have displayed strong antioxidant properties that may prevent DNA damage, improve insulin sensitivity and inhibit glucose absorption in the intestine, all of which could reduce risk.
In previous judgments of the AICR/WCRF panel, coffee was found to have no effect on risk for cancers of the pancreas and kidney. There is currently no consistent evidence that coffee has an effect on the risk of developing other cancers.