Endometrial cancer affects the female reproductive tract, starting in the lining of the uterus. It is fairly common, but researchers still aren't entirely sure what leads to the disease's development. New research, however, suggests that microbes in the uterus may play a key part in the cancer’s development, and understanding this role could lead to better diagnosis and treatment options.

The study, which is now published online in the journal Genome Medicine, found that the uterine microbiome in the vaginas of women with endometrial cancer differed from that of women without the disease. This marks the first time researchers directly assessed the microbiome of the uterus.

Read: Endometrial Cancer Diagnosis Update: Early Screening May Now Be Possible

"These findings provide important insights into the etiology or manifestation of the disease with broad implications for biomarker development in the early detection of, and screening for, endometrial cancer,"  said Marina Walther-Antonio, Ph.D., lead author ofthe study, Medical Xpress reported.

For their research, the team looked at 31 Caucasian women undergoing hysterectomy. Of those, 10 women were diagnosed with a benign gynecologic condition, four women were diagnosed with endometrial hyperplasia, and 17 women were diagnosed with endometrial cancer. All diagnoses were made based on the final surgical pathology following hysterectomy.

According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 60,000 new case of endometrial cancer each year, and of these new cases, around 10,000 women will die from the disease. At the moment, endometrial cancer is diagnosed with surgery, but these findings suggest that one day something as simple as a vaginal swab could be used as an early screening tool for the disease. In addition, these results may also help doctors better understand which women may be at most risk for one day developing the disease and could be a tool in endometrial cancer prevention.

Source: Walther-Antonio MRS, Chen J, Multinu F, et al. Potential contribution of the uterine microbiome in the development of endometrial cancer. Genome Medicine . 2017

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