New European research has found that girls who are tall and have a low body mass index (BMI) may have a higher risk of endometriosis.
Carried out by researchers at the Center for Clinical Research and Prevention and Copenhagen University Hospital Rigshospitalet, Denmark, the new large-scale study looked at 171,447 girls born in Copenhagen over a 66-year period.
The girls’ birth weight was recorded and they were measured again between the ages of seven and 13 to look at the possible association between birth weight, childhood height and BMI and the risk of endometriosis and adenomyosis.
Endometriosis occurs when the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows in other locations, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries or along the pelvis.
While the lining of the womb and its cells build up, break down and then leave the body as a period, endometrial cells that build up and break down in other locations have no way to leave the body, and when the blood touches other organs, it can cause severe pain. As well as reducing quality of life, the disease can also cause infertility.
Adenomyosis is when the endometrium grows into the muscle wall of the womb, rather than outside it, as is the case in endometriosis.
The findings from the new study showed that the girls who had a higher BMI during childhood had a lower risk of endometriosis when compared to the girls who were tall and with a low BMI.
For example, a seven-year old girl who was around 2.3kg lighter than another girl of the same age had around an 8% higher risk of endometriosis, and a seven-year old girl who was around 5.2cm taller had a 9% increased risk.
However, there was no link between birth weight and endometriosis. There was also no link between height, BMI, or birth weight with the risk of adenomyosis.
“A critical time window during which the disease develops is often missed, with women often experiencing diagnostic delays of several years,” says lead researcher, Dr Julie Aarestrup.
“Our findings suggest that indicators of risk can be picked up at an earlier age, which might help speed up diagnosis so treatment can be started to slow the growth of endometrial tissue.”
Although previous studies have found that there is a link between adult height and body size and endometriosis, the results have been inconsistent and little is known about the condition.
The few risk factors that are known to contribute to endometriosis include starting menstruation at an early age, having shorter cycles and a family history of the disease.