Hysterectomy the most frequently performed surgery on women does not protect against cancer, according to research.
Instead, there is an elevated risk of thyroid cancer following surgery, caused by the hormonal changes brought on by removal of the womb, and an increased risk of rectal cancer.
A Finnish study looked retrospectively as 25,000 women who had had their wombs partially or totally removed between 1963 and 1976. A similar number of women who had not undergone a hysterectomy served as controls.
After taking into account education, follow up and number of children they found that overall the incidence of non genital cancers was about 5 per cent higher among women who had hysterectomies.
Specifically, the risks of thyroid and rectal cancers were significantly increased in those who had undergone a total hysterectomy (Int J Epidemiol, 1997, 26: 476-83).
See WDDTY vol 7 no 1 for more information on hysterectomy.