Categories: Gynaecology

Menopause & Increased Risk of Gynecological Cancers

What is Menopause?

It is defined as a phase in a women’s life where she does not menstruate anymore. Mostly conclude when a woman goes 12 months without having her period. The age varies from 40 to 60 in different females.

As menopause is associated with aging, so is the risk of gynecological cancer.

What are Gynecological Cancers?

According to memorial care, gynecologic cancer is an uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells that originate from the reproductive organs of a female. There are several types of gynecologic cancers which include cervical, gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), primary peritoneal, ovarian, uterine/endometrial, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.

Risk factors associated with Gynecologic Cancers:

  • Never having children
  • Early beginning of menstruation (before 12) and late menopause (after 55)
  • Diabetes
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Smoking
  • HIV infection or a weak immune system
  • Obesity
  • Previous history of breast or gynecologic cancer
  • Older age
  • Family history
  • Use of oral birth control and/or fertility drugs
  • Estrogen therapy
  • High-fat diet
  • Prior radiation to the pelvic area

How is Menopause related to increased risk of Gynecological Cancer?

A lot of studies have been carried out to find out this association. Most of which suggested that during menses high levels of biological estrogens are secreted which when not balanced by progesterone can result in increasing the mitotic activity of gynecological cells. A high-level female hormone can increase the probability of DNA-damaging (such as mitotic activity, DNA replication, and somatic mutations). This might result in a fixed mutation leading to cancer. Females with a later menopausal age have higher hormone levels and longer time exposure to estrogens before it stops.

Moreover, progesterone deficiency related to anovulatory cycle is common in people having a later menopausal age, this may also add to gynecological cancer risk.

Is Hormonal Therapy recommended during Menopause associated with Gynecological Cancers?

Hormonal therapy during menopause is recommended to stay in good health by elevating symptoms of menopause like sweating, hot flashes, etc. It is also known to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

However, a lot of studies have found to build an association between Hormonal therapy and breast cancer. Apart from breast cancer, certain studies suggest it increase the risk of ovarian cancer too. Longer is the period for which Hormonal therapy has been taken more are the cancer risks.

Conclusively proper medical consultation is needed before Hormonal therapy and its application and benefit vary from person to person.

What are some alternatives to Hormonal therapy to manage Menopause without increasing cancer risk?

Certain Anti-depressants have known to help deal with symptoms of menopause without many disadvantages. Certain vaginal moisturizers and lubricants can be used as and when needed.

Apart from medication, very little lifestyle changes were found to have caused great benefits in eliminating symptoms from menopause:

  • Food and Beverages should not be consumed right before the shower. After shower coffee has been found to cure hot flashes.
  • Regular physical activity – This can include cardio activities like Zumba, swimming, cycling, etc. If not brisk walking is the ultimate exercise.
  • Reducing Stress – Try meditation and other stress-reducing activities.
  • Try to get enough sleep
  • Less on quantity and frequency of known hot flash triggers tea, coffee, and alcohol.
  • Smoking has to be a big no-no

Anything I can do to prevent Gynecological Cancer?

As the cause is not known you cannot directly prevent gynecological cancer. However, you can practice a healthy lifestyle to eliminate associated risks by practicing all the activities shared above. Losing weight has evidently shown to reduce the risk of cancer.

Remember knowing is the first step of preventing and in case of gynecological cancers prevention is the only intervention.

Dr. Satinder Kaur, Senior Consultant Gynaecology – Oncology, Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi

Narayana Health

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