Endometriosis, a condition that plagues 10% of women, is being linked to two common pesticides according to a new study.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Kristen Upson, PhD., an author on the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the Epidemiology Branch of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Services, reported that since endometriosis is a condition led by estrogen they were very interested in investigating the effect of environmental chemicals that contain estrogenic properties and the increased risk of endometriosis. Chemicals, such as organochlorine pesticides, that are restricted in their use or banned in the U.S. were detected in the blood samples of the women in the study and were said to be associated with an increased endometriosis risk.
Victoria Holt, a principal investigator on the study and a joint member of the epidemiology research unit at Hutchinson as well as a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, said that the research is important because endometriosis is a very serious condition that can greatly affect a woman’s quality of life. Professor Holt went on to say that they still do not have a true understanding of why endometriosis develops in some women but not others. Results from the recent study are helping to piece the puzzle together.
The two organochlorine pesticides that were found are mirex and beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (beta-HCH), both banned in the U.S. A recent study has shown that women who were exposed to these two particular pesticides had a 30 to 70 percent elevated risk of developing endometriosis in their lifetime. The study has shown that these environmental chemicals, even those used in the past that have been banned, are directly affecting the health of reproductive-aged women.
Organochlorine pesticides have proven to be effective against a wide variety of insects, but the U.S. has restricted their use because of possible adverse effects on human health and also on wildlife. The Centers for Disease Control claim that the chemicals are proven to be fat soluble and are often found in fatty foods, specifically fish and dairy products. Since the chemical mirex is unable to metabolized in the body it can infect breast milk, thus increasing the risk of exposure to newborns.
Endometriosis occurs when cells from the lining of the uterus grow outside of the womb. Typically seen during reproductive years, endometriosis occurs in approximately 10% of all women. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, severe menstrual cramps, painful sexual intercourse, and infertility. Dr. Upson claims that for many women the symptoms can be particularly debilitating. Women who are afflicted by endometriosis experience chronic pelvic pain and find that it has affected their personal relationships, quality of life, and even their productivity at work.
Although the study found a direct link between exposure to organochlorine pesticides and an increased risk of developing endometriosis it was unable to prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Researchers continue to investigate the exact cause of endometriosis, but results from this most recent study have certainly provided another piece to the puzzle.
By Mary Kay Love