TUESDAY, Jan. 8, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Endometrial cancer patients are much more likely to die if they're overweight and physically inactive, a new study finds.
Researchers looked at how body-mass index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight) and physical activity levels were tied to survival in 1,400 women with endometrial cancer, which affects the lining of the uterus.
Patients with a BMI of between 25 to 29.9 (considered overweight) were 74 percent more likely to die within five years of diagnosis than patients with a healthy BMI of between 18.5 to 24.9. The risk of death was 84 percent higher for women with a BMI of 30 to 34.9 and 135 percent for those with a BMI of 35 or higher.
However, regardless of BMI, women who did more than seven hours a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity before they were diagnosed with endometrial cancer were 36 percent less likely to die within five years compared to women who never or rarely exercised.
Further research is needed to understand how weight and physical activity influence survival, but these factors may affect tumor progression through insulin resistance, circulating hormone levels and inflammation, the Yale School of Public Health researchers said.
"This study provides new evidence that a healthy body-mass index and higher physical activity levels are associated with better endometrial cancer survival," lead researcher Hannah Arem, a doctoral candidate at the School of Public Health and a pre-doctoral research fellow in the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, said in a Yale news release.
"While all women are encouraged to maintain a healthy body weight and to exercise, women at high risk of endometrial cancer may be particularly motivated by these findings," Arem added.
The study was published online Jan. 7 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
About 42,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with endometrial cancer each year, and nearly 8,000 die from it.
While the study found an association between body weight and physical activity with death risk in women with endometrial cancer, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The American Cancer Society has more about endometrial cancer.