Metabolic Syndrome Raises Endometrial Cancer Risk

Older women with metabolic syndrome may be at increased risk for developing endometrial cancer, according to new research from the National Cancer Institute.


Metabolic syndrome is a broadly-defined condition encompassing numerous health risk factors, including abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, and low HDL cholesterol levels. To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a patient must exhibit at least three of these risk factors.

Individuals with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk for developing numerous other serious health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Previous research has also identified an association between metabolic syndrome and endometrial cancer risk (Rosato, et al. Ann Oncol. 2011; 22(4): 884-889).

Led by Britton Trabert, PhD, a team of NCI researchers examined whether the syndrome’s component metabolic factors, either individually or combined, were associated with endometrial cancer risk. Utilizing data collected from the NCI’s SEER–Medicare linked database, they analyzed 16,323 cases of women diagnosed with endometrial cancer between 1993 and 2007. Their control group included data collected from 100,751 women without a cancer diagnosis. Because the study was carried out using Medicare claims data paired with the NCI SEER cancer registry, its scope was limited to women 65 years of age and older.

Trabert’s team found that among older women, endometrial cancer risk was significantly associated with metabolic syndrome and many of its component features, including overweight/obesity, impaired fasting glucose, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides (Trabert, et al. Canc Epi Bio Prev. 2015; 24(1): 261-267).

Risk Independent of Weight

Prior studies have confirmed that obesity is a major risk factor for endometrial cancer. Dr. Trabert and colleagues further analyzed the NCI data to determine if the association between metabolic syndrome and endometrial cancer can be linked primarily to overweight, or if additional metabolic syndrome factors may also predict the likelihood of cancer development.

Significantly, they found that even after adjusting for obesity, each of the metabolic factors was independently associated with heightened cancer risk.

Trabert noted that her study is different from previous research in that “it was large enough to evaluate the association between metabolic syndrome and rarer subtypes of endometrial cancer. We found that metabolic syndrome increased the risk of all endometrial cancer subtypes.”

She further adds that while her study was not designed to evaluate the potential impact of preventing metabolic syndrome on endometrial cancer incidence, healthcare practitioners should be advised that “in addition to the well-established health benefits, weight loss and exercise are the most effective steps a woman can take to prevent the development of metabolic syndrome.”

The authors conclude that “strategies to reduce the prevalence of metabolic syndrome factors might have a favorable effect on endometrial cancer incidence.”


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