A Snapshot of Endometrial Cancer
Incidence and Mortality
Endometrial cancer is both the most common type of uterine cancer and the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, accounting for approximately 6 percent of all cancers in women in the United States. Since 2002, overall incidence rates have not changed significantly, whereas mortality rates have been slowly rising since 2001. Although the incidence rate of endometrial cancer is only slightly higher in African American women than in whites, the mortality rate of African American women is nearly twice as high as that of all other racial/ethnic groups.
Several factors are associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer, including obesity, exposure to endogenous or exogenous estrogens, tamoxifen use, and certain inherited conditions. Factors associated with a reduced risk include engaging in physical activity, taking oral contraceptives that combine estrogen and progestin, and having a history of pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. Surgical removal of the uterus or hormone therapy may be used to prevent endometrial cancer in women with endometrial hyperplasia. There is no standard or routine screening test for endometrial cancer. Standard treatments for endometrial cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biologic therapy.
Assuming that incidence and survival rates follow recent trends, it is estimated that $2.6 billion1 will be spent on uterine cancer care in the United States in 2014.
NCI’s Investment in Endometrial Cancer Research
To learn more about the research NCI conducts and supports in endometrial cancer, visit the NCI Funded Research Portfolio (NFRP). The NFRP includes information about research grants, contract awards, and intramural research projects funded by NCI. When exploring this information, it should be noted that approximately half of the NCI budget supports basic research that may not be specific to one type of cancer. By its nature, basic research cuts across many disease areas, contributing to our knowledge of the underlying biology of cancer and enabling the research community to make advances against many cancer types. For these reasons, the funding levels reported in NFRP may not definitively report all research relevant to a given category.
Other NCI programs and activities relevant to endometrial cancer include:
- NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics is conducting population and multidisciplinary research to discover the genetic and environmental causes of cancer and new approaches to cancer prevention, including studies on tumors of the endometrium and uterus.
- The Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium is supporting molecular epidemiology and genome-wide association studies of endometrial cancer.
- Researchers with The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) program are systematically identifying the major genomic changes involved in more than 20 cancers, including endometrial carcinoma, using state-of-the-art genomic technologies. In addition, the TCGA Pan-Cancer analysis project is comparing mutations across tumor types to identify genomic similarities; such similarities would raise the prospect that similar treatments could be useful for multiple cancer types. [Pubmed Abstract]
- The Biomarker, Imaging and Quality of Life Studies Funding Program (BIQSFP) is currently supporting biomarker, imaging, and quality of life studies, with or without cost-effectiveness analysis, that are associated with randomized cancer clinical trials, including one BIQSFP quality of life study for endometrial carcinoma.
- One NCI randomized phase II/III clinical trial, Paclitaxel and Carboplatin With or Without Metformin Hydrochloride in Treating Patients With Stage III, IV, or Recurrent Endometrial Cancer, is examining whether adding metformin hydrochloride to the standard regimen of chemotherapy (paclitaxel and carboplatin) prolongs progression-free survival in women with advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer.
- One endometrial-cancer-specific Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) is focusing on new approaches to prevent, identify, and treat endometrial cancers.
Selected Advances in Endometrial Cancer Research
- Genomic characterization of endometrial tumors identified four genetic sub-types, which may set the stage for new diagnostic and treatment approaches. Published May 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- Inhibition of a target activated by a key signaling pathway blocked the growth of human endometrial tumor cells in culture and caused complete or partial regression of some tumors derived from these cells in a mouse model. Published August 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- Analysis of cells obtained from a standard saline-infused sonogram of the uterine cavity in patients with suspected endometrial cancer may help some patients avoid the costly and painful follow-up procedures required for diagnosis. Published September 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- In a preclinical mouse model, endometrial tumors with a common mutation in the tumor suppressor PTEN were sensitive to the targeted therapy olaparib in low-estrogen conditions but not in high-estrogen conditions, suggesting that therapies combining olaparib and hormone ablation may be effective in endometrial cancer patients with this mutation. Published November 2013. [PubMed Abstract].
Additional Resources for Endometrial Cancer
- What You Need To Know About™ Cancer of the Uterus
Describes possible risks, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for someone recently diagnosed with uterine cancer
- Endometrial Cancer Home Page
NCI's gateway for information about endometrial cancer.
- Endometrial Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of endometrial cancer.
- Clinical Trials for Endometrial Cancer
- 1 Cancer Prevalence and Cost of Care Projections, in 2010 dollars.