Endometrial Cancer Risk Factors

What is endometrial cancer?

Endometrial cancer is cancer that begins in the lining of the uterus, which is called the endometrium. It is the most common type of cancer of the uterus, and the most common gynaecological cancer diagnosed in Australian women.

Are there any known risk factors for endometrial cancer?

A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing cancer. Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as family history and inherited factors.

Recent evidence has shown that healthy lifestyle changes in potentially modifiable risk factors, such as maintaining healthy body weight and regular physical activity, can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. Other known risk factors include family history and genetics, reproductive factors, lifestyle, medical history and environmental factors. 

Is endometrial cancer hereditary?

A family history means having one or more blood relatives who have, or have had, endometrial cancer. This can also include other cancers or syndromes known to be associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer.

Having a family history of endometrial cancer, or a family history of colorectal cancer in families with Lynch syndrome, is associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer. Affected relatives could be on either the father’s or mother’s side of the family.

For some women, the fact that other members of the family may have one or more of these cancers may be due to chance. However, some women with a family history may have inherited a specific gene that increases the risk of cancer. Sometimes there is a fault, or mutation, in one copy of a gene. This can prevent the gene from working properly and can lead to an increased risk of endometrial cancer.

It may be appropriate for some women with a strong family history to be referred to a family cancer clinic. 

What you can do to reduce your risk

There are things you can do to manage your risk of developing endometrial cancer. Factors that can be changed are called modifiable factors.

4 things to consider to manage your risk

  • Body weight – being overweight or obese is associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer. Aim to keep within a Body Mass Index (BMI) range of 18.5 to 25 kg/m2.
  • Physical activity – being physically active is probably associated with a decreased risk of endometrial cancer. Doing 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity a week has been shown to help protect against cancer and unhealthy weight gain.
  • Menopausal hormone therapy (also referred to as Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)) – using certain types of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer. This includes MHT which only contains oestrogen, as well as the MHT medicine tibolone. The risk increases the longer you use these types of MHT. Having a discussion with your doctor is important in selecting the type of MHT. It is also essential to review your needs regularly with your doctor if using MHT.
  • Glycaemic load – eating a lot of foods that raise blood glucose levels is probably associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer. Aim to eat a balanced diet, rich in plant-based foods, including fruit, vegetables and other foods containing dietary fibre to reduce your risk of endometrial cancer and other cancers.


Cancer Australia