Endometriosis Linked To Cancer

Painful Inflammation

In endometriosis, similar tissue to that normally found inside the uterus grows in other pelvic locations. During the natural course of a woman's cycle, the lining of the uterus grows fast and is then shed during the menstrual cycle. In endometriosis, the extra-uterine tissue is growing and shedding too, but the shed material has nowhere to go and instead pools wherever it has grown and shed. This causes painful inflammation and scarring that can lead to infertility. Now, researchers suggest that women who suffer from endometriosis have a higher risk for developing various types of cancer.

Almost Half

The scientists, who hail from Huddinge University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, took a look to see if there might be a link between endometriosis and developing cancer. They discovered that the risk for developing ovarian cancer jumped by almost half, for tumors of the endocrine system by a third, for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma the risk went up by a quarter, and for brain tumors just a bit over a fifth. Conversely, the risk for cancer of the cervix fell by around one-third.

Keeping Perspective

The study's author, Dr. Anna-Sofia Berglund presented these findings at the yearly meeting for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Madrid, Spain. Berglund explained that these cancers were not very common and that even such large increases in the risk for contracting these cancers should not cause too much concern and that it's important to keep these findings in perspective. "The overall risk of cancer does not increase after endometriosis, and where there are slightly increased risks, they are in some of the less common cancers. For instance, in Sweden just under 20 women in every 100,000 develop ovarian cancer each year. My study shows that for women with endometriosis, another eight women in 100,000 could develop it—and it may be even fewer than that," explains Berglund.

Preventative Effect

The study determined that women who underwent a hysterectomy or were found to have endometriosis and subsequently had a curative hysterectomy were found not to have any increase in their risk for developing ovarian cancer. This suggests that hysterectomies have a preventative effect on this cancer. Berglund underscored the point that her study does not prove that endometriosis causes cancer. However, she explains that these results point to the fact that whatever causes endometriosis may increase the risk for these cancers.

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