Almost a third of the life of a woman is now postmenopausal, and during this period over 80% of endometrial carcinomas develop. This is by far the most common gynaecological malignancy in the industrialised world and, probably, the less completely understood with regard to its pathogenesis after the menopause. For while it is generally thought that these neoplasms are non-oestrogen-induced, we are, at the same time, informed that oestrogenic stimulation is continuous during menopause through increases to oestrone formation in the adipose tissue from androgens of adrenal and ovarian origin. Furthermore, the postmenopausal endometrium has been typified as atrophic, which is indeed true, but is also implied as being inactive, which in fact it is not; in most cases, the postmenopausal endometrium appears to be weakly proliferative with potential to give rise to an endometrial carcinoma. It is also assumed that postmenopausal endometrial tumours are predominantly of serous papillary and clear cell type, and, in general, they are not well-differentiated endometrioid carcinomas; in reality, no more than 15% are serous papillary and clear cell carcinomas, and no less than 55% are well-differentiated endometrioid neoplasms. The overall prognosis is presumed to be poor, yet postmenopausal patients harbouring well-differentiated endometrioid carcinomas have the same excellent prognosis as those premenopausal women having endometrioid tumours of similar grade and stage. This brief account of endometrial carcinogenesis at menopause re-evaluates these issues and, in the light of new and old evidence, proposes the separation of G1 endometrioid adenocarcinomas (low-grade tumours) from all others (high-grade tumours).
- gynaecological pathology
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.