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 six percent of all cancers in women in the United States. Since 2006, incidence rates have increased among all population groups. Overall mortality rates have increased slightly since the mid-1990s. Although the incidence rate of endometrial cancer is lower in African-American women than in whites, their mortality rate is nearly twice as high as that in 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 combination oral contraceptives, and having a history of pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. Surgical removal of the uterus or hormone therapy is 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, and hormone therapy
It is estimated that approximately $2.6 billion1 is spent in the United States each year on uterine cancer treatment.
Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Endometrial Cancer
- NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics conducts a number of endometrial-cancer-related studies, including Assessment of Screening Modalities for Gynecologic Cancers, a feasibility study assessing the use of alternative sampling techniques in combination with molecular assays to detect endometrial and ovarian cancer.
- The Breast and Gynecologic Cancer Research Group supports studies on prevention and early detection of endometrial cancer, including a clinical trial exploring whether hormone therapy can prevent endometrial cancer in women who have hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer syndrome, which increases the risk for endometrial cancer.
- The Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium supports molecular epidemiology and genome-wide association studies of endometrial cancer.
- The Mouse Models of Human Cancers Consortium (MMHCC) has developed several murine cancer models, including those of the reproductive system, which are available to the research community.
- The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) researchers are systematically identifying the major genomic changes involved in more than 20 cancers using state-of-the-art genomic analysis technologies. Recently published results from the TCGA Endometrial Study revealed molecular characteristics in endometrial cancer that could provide insight on diagnostic classification and treatment strategies. [PubMed Abstract]
- One endometrial-cancer-specific Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) focuses on new approaches to preventing, identifying, and treating endometrial cancers.
Selected Advances in Endometrial Cancer Research
- In a study among Medicare beneficiaries, a laparoscopic hysterectomy for stage I endometrial cancer results in fewer complications than abdominal hysterectomy; however, uptake of this minimally invasive surgery has been slow. Published June 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- In an international study, women who last gave birth at age 40 or older had less than one-half the risk of endometrial cancer as women who last gave birth before age 25. Published July 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- The discovery of new genes that frequently are mutated in uterine serous carcinoma tumors points to potential new treatment targets for this aggressive form of endometrial cancer. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- DNA from endometrial cancers can be detected in a standard liquid Pap smear, a promising step toward a broadly applicable screen for early detection of this cancer. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- See this PubMed list of selected free full-text journal articles on NCI-supported research relevant to endometrial cancer. You can also search PubMed for additional scientific articles or to complete a search tutorial.
Trends in NCI Funding for Endometrial Cancer Research
The National Cancer Institute's (NCI) investment2 in endometrial cancer research increased from $17.1 million in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to $19.1 million in FY 2012. In addition to this funding, NCI supported $8.2 million in endometrial cancer research in FY 2009 and FY 2010 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).3
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 Trends Progress Report, in 2010 dollars.
- 2 The estimated NCI investment is based on funding associated with a broad range of peer-reviewed scientific activities. For additional information on research planning and budgeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see About NIH.
- 3 For more information regarding ARRA funding at NCI, see Recovery Act Funding at NCI.