Nearly 60% of Uterine Cancer Cases Preventable: Report
Women who exercise, maintain healthy weight and drink coffee daily may cut their risk
The panel's findings are "very consistent with our research with respect to obesity and physical activity," said Mia Gaudet, director of genetic epidemiology for the American Cancer Society.
"Endometrial cancer has one of the strongest associations with obesity, of all the cancers we know that are associated with obesity," Gaudet said.
Hormonal changes associated with obesity promote endometrial cancer, said review panel member Dr. Elisa Bandera, an associate professor of epidemiology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
"Endometrial cancer is a disease mostly caused by excessive and prolonged stimulation of the endometrium -- the lining of the uterus -- by estrogens, unopposed by the hormone progesterone," Bandera said. "Obesity is associated with increased estrogen production by the adipose [fat] tissue in postmenopausal women, and is associated with increased insulin and insulin resistance as well as chronic inflammation. All of these factors affect the cells in the endometrium."
At the same time, physical exercise has protective benefits that extend beyond maintaining a healthy weight.
"Regular physical activity has been shown to decrease estrogen and insulin levels," Bandera said. Exercise also strengthens the immune system and helps maintain a healthy digestive system.
Coffee likely reduces cancer risk because it contains powerful antioxidants like chlorogenic acid. These antioxidants can prevent DNA damage, improve insulin sensitivity and inhibit glucose absorption in the intestine, all of which could reduce risk, Bandera and the other experts on the panel concluded.
But by spiking blood sugar levels, high-glycemic foods contribute to cancer risk. They flood the bloodstream with glucose and insulin, AICR's Bender said.
"Again, it's creating this environment that can lead to cancer development," she said. "Metabolic havoc, is what I like to say."
However, Bender cautioned against taking the evidence surrounding high-glycemic foods too far, noting that some very unhealthy foods have a low glycemic load.
"You can't just say I'm going to choose foods that are low in glycemic load and that will be a healthy diet. Pure butter isn't something that we would recommend people eat all the time," she said. "We recommend a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables."