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Possible factors increasing a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis POSSIBLE FACTORS INCREASING A WOMAN’S RISK OF DEVELOPING ENDOMETRIOSIS
Studies to investigate the possible factors that may increase or decrease a woman's risk of developing endometriosis have only been conducted in the last few years. The results obtained so far are still tentative and many of them are contradictory.
Some women may have an inherited or genetic predisposition to developing endometriosis. Several studies suggest that a woman is seven times more likely to develop endometriosis if her mother or sister had the condition.
Altered immune system
Most women have some retrograde menstruation but not every woman develops endometriosis. Therefore, there must be some unknown factor or factors that determine whether or not a particular woman develops endometriosis.
One of the more promising areas of research revolves around the possible role of the immune system. Recent research suggests that women who develop endometriosis may have an abnormal immune system.
It appears that if a woman has a healthy immune system she is able to dispose of any misplaced endometrial fragments deposited in the pelvic cavity because her immune system is able to destroy and remove the fragments before they implant.
It is possible that endometriosis develops in women whose immune system is defective, thereby allowing the endometrial fragments to implant.
It is also possible that endometriosis develops in women who have a large amount of retrograde flow because their immune system is overwhelmed by the large amount of flow and is unable to dispose of it before it implants.
Menstrual cycle characteristics
One study found that women who had menstrual cycles of less than 28 days and had periods which lasted for more than seven days were twice as likely to develop endometriosis. The increased likelihood of developing endometriosis is probably due to the fact that the women menstruated for more days per year and presumably had a greater amount of retrograde menstruation than other women.
The study also found that three-quarters of the women with endometriosis had a history of heavy bleeding.
It has long been assumed that the use of the oral contraceptive pill should prevent or reduce the likelihood of developing endometriosis because it reduces the amount of menstrual blood flow and thereby presumably reduces the amount of retrograde menstruation. The results of the studies conducted to-date have been contradictory and they have not shown that the use of oral contraceptives reduces the likelihood of developing endometriosis.
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