The epidemiology of endometrial and ovarian cancer

Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. 2012 Feb;26(1):1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.hoc.2011.10.009. Epub 2011 Nov 25.


This review highlights similarities in the epidemiology of endometrial and ovarian cancer, including highly correlated incidence rates and similar risk factor profiles. Factors that decrease risk for both cancers include a late menarche, early age at first birth, giving birth and breastfeeding, and use of oral contraceptives. Short or irregular cycles and late menopause are associated with increased risk for both. Other risk factors that appear to operate in a similar direction include decreased risk associated with IUD use or a tubal ligation, and increased risk associated with obesity, lack of exercise, and use of talc powders in genital hygiene. Estrogen excess is proposed as the underlying mechanism for most endometrial cancers, whereas incessant ovulation has been suggested as the explanation for ovarian cancer. However, an increased number of estimated ovulatory cycles correlates directly with risk for both endometrial and ovarian cancer, suggesting that reproductive tissue turnover with an accumulation of PTEN or p53 mutations represents a possible common mechanism. An immune-based explanation involving mucin proteins represents another common mechanism that could explain additional risk factors. Maintenance of ideal weight, breastfeeding children, use of oral contraceptives, and avoidance of talc powders in genital hygiene are measures that could lower the risk for both types of cancer. Careful selection of patients for prophylactic oophorectomy for those women who are coming to hysterectomy for benign disease is an additional measure to consider for ovarian cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Habits
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Reproductive History
  • Risk Factors