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According to results presented at the 95th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, physical activity significantly reduces the risk of developing endometrial cancer.

Endometrial cancer refers to cancer that begins in the lining of the uterus (endometrium), or womb. Endometrial cancer is one of the most common gynecologic cancers in women, with approximately 36,100 new cases each year. The incidence of uterine cancer is estimated to be even higher if it weren’t for the relatively large number of hysterectomies performed for non-cancerous reasons. There has been an increase in the incidence of uterine cancer since the mid 1970s, which has been attributed to the use of hormone replacement therapy. Much time and effort is being invested by researchers to determine possible associations between environmental and/or genetic factors and the risk of diagnosis or death from various cancers, so patients may alter their lifestyles to reduce their risk of developing cancer, or they may undergo appropriate screening measures if they are considered to be at high risk. Diet and exercise are two areas of investigation that have demonstrated a link in the development of various cancers.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Shanghai Cancer Institute recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate physical activity and its possible associations with the development of endometrial cancer. This study involved 832 women between the ages of 30 and 69, diagnosed with endometrial cancer, and a matched “control” group that did not have endometrial cancer. Both groups of women were asked about their physical activity levels, which may have included household chores, walking, occupational activity, cycling, etc., in which they engaged between the ages of 13 to 19 years as well as adulthood. The results indicated that women who had engaged in exercise in both adolescence and adulthood had up to a 40% reduced risk of developing endometrial cancer compared to those who reported no exercise. Women who engaged in common daily activities such as house chores and walking had a 30% reduced risk of developing endometrial cancer. Those who engaged in walking for 60 minutes each day had a reduced risk compared to those who engaged in less than 30 minutes of walking per day. In addition, women who participated in 4 hours or more of house chores per day had a reduced risk of developing endometrial cancer compared to those who participated in 2 hours or less each day. However, in this study, cycling and occupational activity did not affect the incidence of endometrial cancer.

The researchers concluded that physical activity, including common activities such as household chores or daily walking, appears to significantly reduce the risk of developing endometrial cancer. Women may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of different types of exercise and/or a specific exercise program.

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Reference: Matthews C, et al. Physical activity and endometrial cancer risk. Proceedings from the 95th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. March 2004. Abstract #3712.