Uterine Cancer Killing More US Women With Black Women Hardest Hit

January 16, 2021

A new report has found that more women in the United States are developing and dying from uterine cancer than nearly two decades ago, while black women are “disproportionately” affected.

According to a report released today (Dec. 6) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), uterine cancer is one of the few cancers in the U.S. where both incidence and mortality rates are on the rise.Live Science reported in July that liver cancer mortality rates are also on the rise, even as overall cancer mortality rates (defined as the combined mortality rate for all cancers) are declining.

The incidence of uterine cancer increased by 12 percent from 1999 to 2015, from about 24 cases per 100,000 women in 1999 to 27 cases per 100,000 women in 2015, according to the report. From 1999 to 2016, the death rate from uterine cancer increased 21 percent, from about four deaths per 100,000 women in 1999 to five deaths per 100,000 women in 2016.

The incidence is particularly significant among black women, according to the report. For example, while the incidence of uterine cancer was the same for white and black women in 2015, the incidence rate for black women increased by 46 percent from 1999, while the incidence rate for white women increased by only 9 percent. Black and white women had higher rates of uterine cancer than Alaska Indian/Native American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander women.

What’s more, the report found that black women are “about twice as likely to die from uterine cancer” compared to women of other racial and ethnic groups. One potential explanation for this disparity, the authors note, is that uterine cancer has a higher chance of survival when detected early, but black women are more likely than other women to be diagnosed later in life.

Overall, the report said, the rise in uterine cancer rates may be related to rising obesity rates among American women. Women who are overweight or obese are two to four times more likely to develop endometrial cancer (the most common type of uterine cancer) than women of normal weight, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other factors that may contribute to the increase include inadequate physical activity, increased rates of diabetes and decreased use of certain hormone therapies.

Because screening tests are not recommended for uterine cancer (cancer tests can detect the disease before symptoms begin), the authors stress the importance of raising awareness of the early symptoms of the disease. One such symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding, which is reported to occur in about 90 percent of women with this cancer. In fact, women should seek immediate medical attention if they experience this symptom.

The report is based on data from the CDC’s National Cancer Registry Program and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, both of which collect information on cancer incidence. The researchers also used data from the National Vital Statistics System, which includes death certificates from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.