Older women with metabolic syndrome could be more likely to develop endometrial cancer, irrespective of whether or not they are overweight.
The research, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Preventio, associates metabolic syndrome – which significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes – with the cancer that begins in the inner lining of the uterus.
Metabolic syndrome is defined by a range of metabolic factors including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It significantly increases the risk of developing insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular conditions.
Previous research has suggested a link between metabolic syndrome and endometrial cancer, but failed to clarify whether the link was due to obesity or other factors of metabolic syndrome.
The study
Researchers at the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Institutes of Health gathered data of 16,323 women aged 645 and over who had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer between 1993 and 2007. They compared this to the data of 100,751 women who had not been diagnosed with the disease.
Their analysis revealed that women with metabolic syndrome diagnosed using the ATP III crtiteria were 39 per cent more likely to develop endometrial cancer, while those diagnosed using the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) criteria were 109 per cent more likely to be diagnosed.
The researchers discovered, after accounting for obesity among the patients, that women diagnosed with metabolic syndrome using the ATP III framework were still 21 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with endometrial cancer than women without metabolic syndrome factors. Those diagnosed using the IDF criteria were 17 per cent more likely to be diagnosed.
What do the results suggest?
The results suggest that a woman whose metabolic syndrome factors do not include obesity is still more likely to develop endometrial cancer if she has other metabolic factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or impaired fasting glucose.
Four metabolic syndrome factors – excessive weight, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and impaired fasting glucose – increased the likelihood of developing endometrial cancer individually.
The implications of the findings
Britton Trabert, PhD, of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Institutes of Health, an author of the study, said: “We found that a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome was associated with higher risk of endometrial cancer, and that metabolic syndrome appeared to increase risk regardless of whether the woman was considered obese.
“Although our study was not designed to evaluate the potential impact of preventing metabolic syndrome on endometrial cancer incidence, weight loss and exercise are the most effective steps a woman can take to prevent developing metabolic syndrome.”

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