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Cancer Health Center

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Endometrial Cancer Prevention (PDQ®): Prevention - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Description of Evidence


Interventions Associated With Decreased Risk

Oral contraceptives

Use of combination oral contraceptives (COC) for at least 1 year reduces endometrial cancer risk by approximately 40%, as demonstrated by case-control studies and prospective cohort studies.[8,9,10] This decrease in risk persists for at least 15 years after discontinuation of COCs. A meta-analysis of ten case-control studies and one prospective study found an association between risk reduction and duration of use. Overall, 4 years of COC use was associated with a risk reduction of approximately 56%; 8 years, 67%; and 12 years, 72%. The single-prospective study did not show a duration response, but the risk was reduced by 80% after 9 years of follow-up.[11]

A Swedish population-based case-control study confirms these findings. Women who used any type of oral contraceptive had a 30% risk reduction (odds ratio [OR] = 0.7; 95% CI, 0.5-0.9) and women who used progestin-only pills had a 60% risk reduction (OR = 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2-1.4). Women who used COCs for at least 3 years had a 50% risk reduction (OR = 0.5; 95% CI, 0.3-0.7) and those who used COCs for at least 10 years had an 80% risk reduction (OR = 0.2; 95% CI, 0.1-0.4). Overall, risk decreased by 10% per year of COC use and was observed for atypical hyperplasias as well as all grades of invasive tumors.[12]

Physical activity

Several cohort [13,14] and case-control [15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23] studies of physical activity and endometrial cancer reveal a weak to moderate inverse relationship, despite varying methods of assessing physical activity levels. For postmenopausal women enrolled in The Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer, a 46% reduction (RR = 0.54; 95% CI, 0.34-0.85; P = .002) in risk of endometrial cancer was reported in those women who were physically active 90 minutes or more per day compared with less than 30 minutes each day.[24] One case-control study of 822 endometrial cancer cases and 1,111 population controls showed that regular exercise was associated with a 38% decrease in risk (OR = 0.62; 95% CI, 0.51-0.76) without a trend for increasing duration or intensity of physical activity.[25] The Breast Cancer Detection Project Follow-up Study, using a prospective cohort, did not confirm an association between recent physical activity levels and risk.[26] It is unknown whether physical activity reduces endometrial cancer risk by reducing obesity, by reducing serum estrone levels, or by another mechanism.[27]

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