Rising levels of obesity is fuelling a massive jump in the number of women suffering womb cancer, health experts have revealed.
The number diagnosed with the disease in Scotland has almost doubled in 20 years, according to Cancer Research UK’s latest statistics published today.
Around 790 women are diagnosed with womb cancer every year in Scotland and around 200 die from the disease.
Twenty years ago, there were around 380 new cases of womb cancer diagnosed each year and around 120 women died from the condition.
Latest figures show 61 per cent of women in Scotland are now overweight or obese.
Professor Linda Bauld, the charity’s expert on cancer prevention based at Stirling University, said: “This rise in cases of womb cancer in Scotland is worrying. Not all the reasons are known, but one in three cases in the UK are linked to women being overweight or obese.
“Unfortunately, many women in Scotland are now overweight and this wasn’t the case in the past. This makes it even more important that we focus on cancer prevention in Scotland, which means taking action to stop cancer before it starts, and preventing obesity is an important part of that.”
The science behind how extra weight can cause cancer is not completely clear but there is evidence that extra fat in the body can raise cancer risk by producing hormones and growth factors that encourage cells to divide, she said.
The charity says lack of exercise and taking HRT hormone replacement therapy are also risk factors – but are linked to fewer cases of womb cancer than obesity. A woman’s age and genetic make-up can also affect her risk of developing the disease.
Symptoms of womb cancer include abnormal bleeding and abdominal pain. The disease is usually diagnosed early and most women can be cured by surgery, Cancer Research says.
Linda Summerhayes, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “Obesity is linked to ten different types of cancer, including womb cancer, and is the single biggest preventable cause of the disease after smoking. While there are no guarantees against cancer, keeping a healthy weight can help you stack the odds in your favour.”
She said research and improved treatments meant survival rates for womb cancer had improved.