Endometriosis is a common gynecological disorder that occurs in up to 10 percent of reproductive-age women. Affecting 5 million women in the United States, endometriosis is when the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside the womb, which can lead to pain and/or infertility.
So what do pesticides have to do with endometriosis? In a new study comparing 248 women newly diagnosed with endometriosis to 538 women without the condition, it was found that higher exposure to two pesticides—beta-hexachlorocycloheaxane and mirex—had a 30 percent to 70 percent higher risk of endometriosis.
The study sought to look at the role of environmental chemicals with estrogenic properties. “We found it interesting that despite organochlorine pesticides being restricted in use or banned in the U.S. for the past several decades, these chemicals were detectable in the blood samples of women in our study and were associated with increased endometriosis risk,” said study lead author, Kristen Upson.
Although the study found an associated between exposure to two specific pesticides and a higher risk of developing endometriosis, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Victoria Holt, principal investigator of the study, notes, “This research is important, as endometriosis is a serious condition that can adversely affect the quality of a woman’s life, yet we still do not have a clear understanding of why endometriosis develops in some women but not in others. Our study provides another piece of the puzzle.”