Is There A Link To Cancer?
New research suggests that women who have endometriosis have a higher risk for developing various types of cancer. The gynecological condition is characterized by the growth of endometrium-like tissue, normally found only in the lining of the uterus, outside of the womb on other organs in the pelvic cavity. Because normal menstruation involves a quick growth cycle followed by a shedding of this material which lines the womb, this extra tissue growth serves no beneficial purpose and cannot be expelled via the menstrual period.
The symptoms of endometriosis include heavy and irregular bleeding, fatigue, pelvic pain, and bloating. Endometriosis is also a very common cause of infertility in women of childbearing age.
Researchers in Stockholm, Sweden, from the Huddinge University Hospital attempted to discover if there was any link between endometriosis and the risk for cancer. The scientists found that the risk for developing ovarian cancer rose by almost 50%. The risk for endocrine tumors in women with endometriosis was increased by a third, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma by a quarter, and brain tumors by a fifth. These findings were tempered by the fact that the incidences of cervical cancer actually fell by a third.
Study author Dr. Anna-Sofia Berglund reported these findings at the yearly meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology held in Madrid. Berglund explained that these were cancers that were considered to be rather uncommon. That means that even relatively large increases in the risks for these particular cancers do not pose a serious concern since the chances of developing the cancers are still quite small. "It is very 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," said Berglund.
Berglund cited statistics to show the rarity of these cancers. In Sweden, for instance, not quite 20 women out of every 100,000 healthy females annually develop ovarian cancer. According to Berglund's study, if women with endometriosis were to be factored into the equation, that statistic would change to 28 women out of 100,000, or around 8 more women. Berglund cautions that the number is approximate and may be even smaller.
Be that as it may, the study also found that women with endometriosis who underwent a hysterectomy did not have the same increase in their risk for ovarian cancer. This would suggest that the surgery may protect women with endometriosis against developing these cancers.
Dr. Berglund stresses that the study does not prove that endometriosis causes cancer, but rather that the condition may increase the risk for developing cancer.