Uterine cancer risk factors

Christina S. Chu, MD
Last Modified: March 31, 2002

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I have a patient who has developed uterine cancer in her 40's, and there is no known family history. Do you know of any association between asbestos exposure and an increased risk for uterine cancer? I have been searching the literature and have not found anything, but I don't want to overlook anything for this patient.

Thank you very much!  


Answer

Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

While the median age for adenocarcinoma of the endometrium is about 61 years of age, many people do not realize that about 25% of all cases are diagnosed in women before the menopause. Five percent of sufferers are even below the age of 40. So, while your patient is relatively young, endometrial cancer is not necessarily rare at this age. While most risk factors relate to unopposed estrogen (obesity, taking estrogen alone for hormone replacement therapy, late menopause, no children, frequent anovulatory menstrual cycles), other risk factors include hypertension and diabetes. Some patients have endometrial cancer that is not estrogen related. For these patients, the cause of cancer is often unknown. As far as I know, there is no specific association between endometrial cancer and asbestos exposure.