How Hormones Influence Uterine Cancer
Uterine cancer, also known as endometrial cancer, is a type of cancer that develops in the uterus.It is the most common gynecologic cancer in women in the United States, with an estimated 66,570 new cases and 12,940 deaths expected in 2021. Hormones play a critical role in the development of uterine cancer. In this article, we will explore how hormones influence uterine cancer, and answer some common questions about this topic.
Hormones and Uterine Cancer
The uterus is a female reproductive organ that plays a crucial role in menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth. The lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows and thickens each month in preparation for a fertilized egg. If the egg is not fertilized, the endometrium sheds during menstruation. Hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, regulate the growth and shedding of the endometrium.
Estrogen and Uterine Cancer
Estrogen is a hormone produced by the ovaries that promote the growth of the endometrium. High levels of estrogen over a prolonged period can increase the risk of uterine cancer. This is because the constant stimulation of the endometrium by estrogen can cause abnormal cell growth and eventually lead to cancer.
Progesterone and Uterine Cancer
Progesterone is a hormone that opposes the effects of estrogen on the endometrium. It helps to stabilize the lining of the uterus and prevent abnormal cell growth. Low levels of progesterone can increase the risk of uterine cancer, as there is less opposition to the effects of estrogen on the endometrium.
Questions and Answers
How does menopause affect the risk of uterine cancer?
Menopause is the time when a woman stops having menstrual periods. During this time, the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, and the levels of these hormones drop significantly. This decrease in hormones can increase the risk of uterine cancer because there is less opposition to the effects of estrogen on the endometrium.
Can birth control pills reduce the risk of uterine cancer?
Yes, birth control pills can reduce the risk of uterine cancer. They contain synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone, which help to regulate the growth and shedding of the endometrium. By maintaining a stable endometrium, birth control pills can reduce the risk of abnormal cell growth and uterine cancer.
Does hormone replacement therapy increase the risk of uterine cancer?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) involves taking estrogen and progesterone to relieve symptoms of menopause. The use of estrogen alone can increase the risk of uterine cancer. However, taking estrogen and progesterone together can reduce this risk. Women who have had a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus) can take estrogen alone without an increased risk of uterine cancer.
Can obesity increase the risk of uterine cancer?
Yes, obesity can increase the risk of uterine cancer. Fat cells produce estrogen, and the more fat cells a person has, the more estrogen their body produces. This constant stimulation of the endometrium by estrogen can increase the risk of abnormal cell growth and uterine cancer.
What are the symptoms of uterine cancer?
The most common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding between periods or after menopause. Other symptoms may include pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, and a watery or bloody vaginal discharge.
How is uterine cancer diagnosed?
Uterine cancer is typically diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical exam, imaging tests, and biopsy.
The following are the most common methods used for diagnosing uterine cancer:
- Medical history: Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, family history, medical
- history, and other factors that may affect your risk of uterine cancer.
- Physical exam: Your doctor will perform a pelvic exam to check for any abnormalities in your uterus or ovaries, and to evaluate the size and shape of your uterus.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI can provide detailed images of the
- uterus and help detect any abnormal growths or tumors.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is the most definitive way to diagnose uterine cancer. In this procedure, a small sample of tissue is removed from the uterus and examined under a microscope to check for cancerous cells.
In some cases, additional tests may be needed to determine the stage of cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. These tests may include blood tests, chest X-rays, or additional imaging tests.