Women who have surgery to treat endometriosis have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer, new research suggests.
The study, published in the Scandanavian journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, also found that hormonal treatments for endometriosis do not appear to lower ovarian cancer risk.
“Patients with endometriosis are typically treated with hormones, or in more severe cases, with surgery,” noted lead researcher Anna-Sofia Melin, M.D., from the Karolinska Institute and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. “We wanted to expand understanding of ovarian cancer risk in women with endometriosis who had some type of surgery or hormone therapy.”
Endometriosis is a painful gynecological disease where tissue normally found inside the uterus grows elsewhere in the body. The World Health Organization estimates it strikes 14 percent of women of childbearing age, including more than 5.5 million women in North America. Untreated it can cause infertility.
Past studies have suggested the disease can increase the risk of ovarian cancer, but that surgical interventions — such as hysterectomy or tubal ligation — may reduce that risk.
Using the National Swedish Patient Register, Dr. Melin’s team identified more than 400 women diagnosed with endometriosis between 1969 and 2007, then tracked how many were treated with surgery or homone therapy. Researchers also identified those who were later diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer.
The result showed a significant association between the surgical removal of an ovary and endometrial tissue and a lowered ovarian cancer risk.
"Our study suggests that surgical removal of an ovary and removal of visible endometriosis protects women from developing ovarian cancer at a later point," said Dr. Melin. "For women with endometriosis, the role of hormonal treatment and future ovarian cancer risk remains unclear and further investigation is warranted."
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