Womb cancer deaths increase by 20 per cent
Thursday 05 April 2012
A dramatic rise in the number of women diagnosed with womb cancer means death rates have risen by almost 20% in the last decade, figures suggest.
Obesity is a key driver behind the increase in diagnoses, at least doubling the risk of the disease, experts said.
Incidence of womb cancer has risen 43% since the mid 1990s, from 13.7 to 19.6 per 100,000 women in the UK.
Before this point, the chance of developing womb cancer had been constant for at least 25 years and death rates had been declining, according to Cancer Research UK.
But since the late 1990s, the death rate has risen from 3.1 to 3.7 per 100,000 in the UK.
This means more than 1,900 women are now dying from the disease each year, compared to fewer than 1,500 at the turn of the millennium.
Nevertheless, overall survival rates are improving, with 77% of women now surviving for five years or more compared to 61% for women diagnosed between 1971 and 1975.
Professor Jonathan Ledermann, Cancer Research UK's gynaecological cancer expert, said: "It's hugely troubling that more women are dying from womb cancer but we shouldn't let this cloud the fact that the chances of surviving the disease are still better than ever.
"This is due to better organisation of care for women's cancers and more widespread use of one-stop clinics for post-menopausal bleeding, as well as advances in the use of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy through clinical trials.
"It's clear we're making great progress but we don't yet fully understand what's driving up cases of womb cancer, so there's still lots more to do."
Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: "Despite survival rates continuing to improve, these worrying figures show more women are still dying from womb cancer.
"This appears to be related to a rise in the incidence of womb cancer, so it's essential women receive support to help them reduce their risk.
"Maintaining a healthy body weight can halve a woman's risk of womb cancer and is one of the best ways to protect against the disease.
"Women should also be aware of the symptoms of womb cancer which include abnormal vaginal bleeding - especially for post-menopausal women - abdominal pain and pain during sex.
"Although these symptoms don't usually mean cancer, as they could be signs of more common conditions like fibroids or endometriosis, it's still vital to get them checked by a doctor.
"The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more likely treatment will be successful."
Sharon Robinson, 56, a womb cancer survivor from London, said: "When I first had bleeding I thought it might be something to do with the menopause, but then it became more serious and I went to my doctor.
"Being told I had cancer was terrifying, as I knew it meant having my womb removed followed by weeks of radiotherapy. But in the end it was all worth it because here I am today cancer-free.
"It's so important that women who have symptoms like bleeding after the menopause go to their doctor without delay, as spotting cancer early save lives."
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