Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) scientists have identified a new link between strong period pain experienced in adolescence and early adulthood and the risk of endometriosis.
Researchers from QIMR's Gynaecological Cancer Laboratory have found having strong period pain often at an early age doubles a woman's risk of developing endometriosis.
The study also found that girls starting their menstrual cycle after 14 years old had a significantly decreased risk of endometriosis.
Researchers analysed information from more than 500 Australian women – making this one of the largest studies of its kind. Information about early menstrual characteristics in women with moderate to severe endometriosis was compared to data from women who had not been diagnosed with endometriosis.
"Although the relationship between menstrual characteristics and endometriosis has been studied extensively, most research has focused on the recent menstrual cycle characteristics of women with the disease. Our research is one of the first studies to look at the factors contributing to the development of endometriosis long before symptoms and diagnosis occur," said Dr Christina Nagle from QIMR.
In a related study last year, Dr Nagle and her team found that being overweight at 10 years of age also doubles the risk of developing endometriosis in later life.
"Our research aims to better understand the signs and symptoms before the disease develops and to help identify women at higher risk. Early intervention will result in better health outcomes for women with this condition."
To date, there is no known cause or cure for endometriosis, which affects 10% of women, causing severe pain and reduced fertility, in many cases. Disease symptoms can be managed through pain medication, hormone treatment or surgery, or a combination of each.
The data were collected at QIMR by Dr Tanya Bell as part of her PhD thesis. The article was published online on 21 December 2009 on the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology website. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2009.10.857)
QIMR is one of Australia's largest and most successful medical research institutes. Our researchers are investigating the genetic and environmental causes of more than 40 diseases as well as developing new diagnostics, better treatments and prevention strategies. The Institute's diverse research program extends from tropical diseases to cancers to Indigenous health, mental health, obesity, HIV and asthma.
More information about QIMR can be found at www.qimr.edu.au
Endometriosis Association (Qld) Inc
The Endometriosis Association (Queensland) Inc. was inaugurated in 1988. The main aims of the association are education, research and support. Members work to achieve these aims through various activities conducted throughout the State. The association also partakes in telephone and email support services with fundraising activities and membership fees channelled into these services.
See www.qendo.org.au for more information.
Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrial cells (cells that form the lining of the uterus) begin growing elsewhere in the body. The misplaced tissue implants itself onto the surface of the tissue or organ where it has been deposited and begins to grow and function.
Endometriosis is very difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms are not well understood, and vary from one case to another. The condition is known to be associated with severe period pain and infertility. Some women may not have any symptoms at all.
The cause of endometriosis is still unknown.
Surgery and pain management are currently the only treatments for endometriosis. There is no cure.
- Affects around 10% of women of reproductive age.
- Reduces female fertility, which may be one of the first signs of the disease.
- Has significant impact on the physical, mental and social wellbeing of women.
- Has possible genetic links.
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology