A study published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that losing weight can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, the most common type of uterine cancer, by 29% to 56% in women who have gone through menopause. Uterine cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women in the United States, and the majority of diagnoses are in women older than 50.
In this study, researchers evaluated data from more than 35,000 women aged 50 to 79 who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study. Each person’s weight was taken at the beginning of the study and again 3 years later to figure out how participants’ weight had changed. The women were also asked if they had chosen to lose weight. Researchers then tracked the participants for an average of 10 years to see who was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.
The study results showed that women who actively worked to lose weight decreased their risk of endometrial cancer, compared to women who did not lose weight.
For women who lost 5% or more of their body weight after they turned 50, their risk of endometrial cancer was lowered by 29%, regardless of their age or how much weight they lost.
Obese women who chose to lose weight and lost 5% or more of their body weight had a 56% reduced risk of endometrial cancer.
Women who were overweight or obese who achieved a normal body mass index (BMI) after choosing to lose weight had the same risk as women who had stayed at a normal BMI.
Women who gained more than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) had a 26% higher risk of endometrial cancer.
What does this mean for patients? Women who have gone through menopause and are obese or overweight should consider losing weight to reduce their risk of endometrial cancer. Many other studies have shown that obesity increases the risk of endometrial cancer. However, according to the authors, this is one of the first studies to look at what effects weight loss has on cancer risk and that measures actual change in weight rather than relying on weight data provided by patients.
“Many older adults think it’s too late to benefit from weight loss, or think that because they are overweight or obese, the damage has already been done. But our findings show that’s not true. It’s never too late, and even moderate weight loss can make a big difference when it comes to cancer risk.”
—study author Juhua Luo, PhD, Indiana University School of Public Health, Bloomington, Indiana