U.S. incidence rates of uterine cancer on the rise, with the heaviest toll on Black women
While experts say many forms of cancer are decreasing, federal researchers state that uterine cancer is rising. And African American women are experiencing the biggest toll of that increase.As the seventh most common fatal cancer for U.S. women, rising incidence rates of uterine cancer has garnered much medical attention. According to NBC News, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states the rise of obesity is closely tied with the rise of uterine cancer. Federal researchers found that rates of uterine cancer increased by 0.7 percent each year from 1999 to 2015, while death rates increased 1.1 percent each year. While uterine cancer incidence rates increased for white and Black women, Black women were twice as likely to die from the cancer than white women.
Dr. Michael Birrer, an oncologist and director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, states, “There’s no doubt that the incidence and mortality of uterine cancer, specifically endometrial cancer, is higher in African-American women. The reason why is not entirely understood. One reason could be genetics. Another is access to health care. Black patient populations that are poor or from rural communities may not have equal access to care. When the tumors are finally identified, the disease may have already spread.”
Endometrial cancer, the most common type of uterine cancer, usually occurs in women over 55. The cancer attacks the lining of the uterus when estrogen is overproduced. Birth control pills have found to be helpful as they have progesterone which hinders estrogen effects.
Birrer adds, “Obese women have higher circulating levels of estrogen, so that tends to put them at higher risk,” said Birrer.
While the CDC calls for public health initiatives to assist women in healthy physical lives, Birrer maintains that research needs to be comprehensive.
“Public health awareness is important, but more research needs to be done to address all the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the difference in prevalence between African-American women and other groups,” he adds.