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Why do we need to study Endometrial Cancer?
Endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine corpus) is the most common invasive gynaecological cancer in Australia. Several tumour subtypes are recognised and survival is poor for some of these. Although it is now clear that the aetiology of other gynaecologic cancers (such as ovarian cancer) varies by subtype, few epidemiological studies have distinguished between different subtypes of endometrial cancer. Moreover, very little is known about the cellular changes that take place as these different subtypes of cancers develop, and treatment strategies for the rarer aggressive subtypes have generally been extrapolated from management practices for the common endometrioid subtype.
There are wide differences in the incidence of endometrial cancer between countries, with high rates are seen in more developed countries. However, there is also regional variation within racial groups, in that rates in black and Asian women living in the United States are much higher than their racial counterparts in other countries, but are still not as high as US Caucasians. This suggests that while environmental factors play a large role in development of the disease, genetic factors also influence development of endometrial cancer. This is supported by the observation that an increased risk of endometrial cancer occurs amongst relatives of affected individuals.
It will be greatly beneficial to understand the different environmental and genetic causes of the different subtypes of cancers, so that we can develop better strategies to prevent these cancers. In addition, a better understanding of the differences between these subtypes at the cellular level will help understand how they progress, and what chemical agents may be used to treat them.