Reducing The Risks Of Endometriosis

2011-07-01 | |
Last updated: 2011-07-01

What Are The Risk Factors For Endometriosis?


Far from simply being a part of a woman’s natural monthly cycle, Endometriosis is a condition with a varied set of causes. One of the causes for the condition is genetic. Last year, researchers from the University of Oxford and Harvard University identified two locations in human genes where defects can occur that will lead to the condition. The genetic connection is also supported by a 2010 study from the University of Vienna that found the risk for Endometriosis was double amongst women whose sister or mother also suffered from the condition.

Early Development

Aside from genetics, other factors related to development also affect a woman’s risk for experiencing Endometriosis. Research from Harvard University in 2004 found that women who were born underweight had a 30% higher risk of suffering from the condition. Similarly, women who were born as one of a set of twins or triplets had a 70% higher risk of developing the disorder.

In addition to very early development, later childhood development also affects the risks. In 2010, research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that among girls aged 5 to 10 who were in the bottom third of girls in terms of body size, the risks for the disorder were 18% higher. At the other end of the weight spectrum, a 2009 study, from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, found that girls who were overweight at age 10 were at double the risk for the disorder. Clearly from this collective research, body mass at various stages of early life is an important factor affecting a woman’s risk for developing Endometriosis.

Body Weight

While the previously mentioned risks are currently out of our individual hands, many of the risks for Endometriosis are due to factors that can be adjusted by an individual. Continuing with the theme of body mass, the same research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital just mentioned also found that for women at age 20, the risks for the disorder were 32% higher for women whose weight fell into the bottom third of women according to their BMI or body mass index. What this means is that young women who strive for the rail thin figures of super models are putting themselves at risk for Endometriosis.

Lifestyle Factors

Other risks for developing Endometriosis that we can control come from lifestyle factors. A study from the University of Milan found that dietary choices affect the risk for developing the disorder. The researchers found that women who consumed high levels of red meat and ham had an 80% higher risk for the condition. They also found that women who ate only small amounts of green vegetables and fresh fruit had a 67% higher risk.

These are not the only risks that arise from food choices either. Further research from Harvard University found that women who consume the least Omega-3 oils in their diet had a 28% higher risk of developing Endometriosis. The same research also found that woman who ate the most trans-fats had a 48% higher risk. These research findings are not surprising given the importance of diet in so many aspects of health

In addition to food as a lifestyle factor affecting Endometriosis risks, alcohol consumption also plays a role. In this case, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that women who did not drink had a 42% higher chance for Endometriosis than woman who consumed at least one drink per day on average.

Aside from these lifestyle factors, another aspect of daily living that affects the risks for Endometriosis is the use of birth control. Because the accumulation and shedding of cells associated with Endometriosis is tied to changing hormone levels, use of the pill and its hormone stabilizing effects reduces the risks for developing the disorder. According to research from Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, the shorter the duration of pill usage the higher the risk that women have to develop the condition.


Endometriosis is a condition that far too often goes unrecognized and untreated. In the absence of treatment, women often unnecessary experience infertility and pain for many years. While many of the risks for the disorder are a result of genetics and early childhood development, women at risk can take steps to reduce their chances. The first step, however, is for a woman to recognize when her menstrual cycle is not normal.

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Category: Disease Prevention

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