Pesticides Linked to Endometriosis Risk, Study ShowsNov 6, 2013
The precise cause of endometriosis—the growth of uterine tissue outside the uterus—remains unknown, but a newly published research study shows that pesticide poisoning may be a contributing factor for some women.
Researchers studied 786 women, ages 18 to 49, who were enrolled in a healthcare system in western Washington state. Two hundred forty-eight of the women had surgically confirmed endometriosis and 538 were controls, The New York Times reports. The researchers measured blood levels of two organochlorine pesticides, mirex and beta HCH, which continue to be found in some fish and dairy products even though they have been banned in the U.S. for decades. They are still in use in other countries, the researchers write. The study appears online in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed research journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.
Women in the study with the highest exposure to mirex had a 50 percent increased risk for endometriosis, and those exposed to high levels of beta HCH had a 30 to 70 percent increased risk. The researchers adjusted for age, serum lipids, education, race and ethnicity, smoking, alcohol intake and other factors, according to the Times.
Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which the endometrium—tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus—grows outside the uterus (endometrial implant). According to the Mayo Clinic, endometriosis most commonly involves the ovaries, bowel, or the tissue lining the pelvis. Endometriosis can cause fertility problems. Hormone treatments are sometimes effective but many women need surgery to remove the excess endometrial tissue. Because endometriosis can recur after surgery or when drug treatment ends, doctors advise women who want to become pregnant not to delay too long after treatment.