Endocrine disrupting chemicals and endometriosis

A growing body of literature supports associations between specific classes of EDCs and endometriosis, though findings vary by study population, biologic media for quantifying chemicals and diagnostic method for endometriosis.

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Melissa M. Smarr, Ph.D., Kurunthachalam Kannan, Ph.D., Germaine M. Buck Louis, Ph.D., M.S.


Endometriosis is an estrogen dependent gynecologic disease with lasting implications for many women's fertility, somatic health, and overall quality of life. Growing evidence suggests that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may be etiologically involved in the development and severity of disease. We weigh the available human evidence focusing on EDCs and endometriosis, restricting to research that has individually quantified chemical concentrations for women, included a comparison group of unaffected women, and used multivariable analytic techniques. Evidence supporting an environmental etiology for endometriosis includes metals/trace elements, dioxins, and other persistent organic pollutants, as well as nonpersistent chemicals, such as benzophenones and phthalates. To address the equivocal findings for various EDCs, future research directions for filling data gaps include [1] use of integrated clinical and population sampling frameworks allowing for incorporation of new diagnostic modalities; [2] the collection of various biologic media, including target tissues for quantifying exposures; [3] study designs that offer various comparison groups to assess potentially shared etiologies with other gynecologic disorders; and [4] novel laboratory and statistical approaches that fully explore all measured EDCs for the assessment of mixtures and low dose effects and the use of directed acyclic graphs and supporting causal analysis for empirically delineating relationships between EDCs and endometriosis.

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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility┬« is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders.