Rising levels of obesity among UK women have helped drive a 54 percent jump in womb cancer rates over the last two decades, according to new figures released by Cancer Research UK.

Back in the early 1990s around 19 women in every 100,000 developed the disease, but that has now risen to 29 women in every 100,000, with obesity being the most likely driving force behind the increase, according to the charity.

In the UK around 9,000 women are now diagnosed with womb cancer every year, and around 2,000 die from the disease, a marked difference from the 4,800 annual new cases and 1,500 deaths recorded twenty years ago.

“It’s worrying that womb cancer cases are going up so sharply,” said Professor Jonathan Ledermann, director of the Cancer Research UK and UCL Cancer Trials Centre. “We don’t know all the reasons why. But we do know that about a third of cases are linked to being overweight so it’s no surprise to see the increases in womb cancer cases echo rising obesity levels.”

On the plus side, the figures also show that survival is improving. “In the 1970s, almost six in 10 women diagnosed with the disease survived for at least 10 years. Now almost eight in 10 women survive,” said Prof Lederman. “But we need more research to understand the biology of the disease better and to know more about how it is caused so that we can improve the treatment of these women as well as preventing more cases.”

Why extra weight can cause cancer is not entirely clear, but there is evidence to show that extra fat in the body can increase the risk by producing hormones and growth factors that promote cell division, the charity noted.