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Endometriosis and ovarian cancer linked

Endometriosis Awareness Week 5-11 March 2012

QIMR researchers as part of an international study have confirmed a link between endometriosis and ovarian cancer.

Endometriosis is estimated to affect approximately 10% of Australian women and occurs when the tissues that usually line the uterus start to grow on the outer walls of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowels and other nearby areas.

QIMR researcher, Dr Penny Webb said that women with a history of endometriosis, a sometimes painful condition linked to infertility, can have up to three times higher rates of three types of ovarian tumours and that these findings may improve future efforts in diagnosing this often-missed cancer.

“We certainly do not want to worry women who suffer with endometriosis, because most women with the condition do not develop ovarian cancer, but we do want doctors to be aware of this increased risk.”

“Our research found that women who have suffered with endometriosis have more than three times the risk of developing clear-cell ovarian cancer, more than double the risk of endometrioid ovarian cancer, and an increased risk of low-grade serous ovarian cancer when compared to those women without endometriosis,” Dr Webb said.

Dr Webb said that ovarian cancer affects more than 1,200 Australian women each year and only 40% of women diagnosed survive more than five years.

“Detection of ovarian cancer can be incredibly difficult as there is no screening test.  The symptoms such as bloating or abdominal pain are very common and can be attributed to many other factors, so they often do not spark any concern,” Dr Webb said.

“Defining risk groups is important for any type of cancer and confirming this link between endometriosis and ovarian cancer is a step in the right direction to better understanding ovarian cancer and may help us narrow our focus for possible future screening.

Podcast about study

QIMR media release

QIMR’s research focuses on:

  • Researching menstrual and physical characteristics that may indicate an increased or decreased risk of endometriosis.
  • Understanding the genetics that may influence endometriosis risk.

QIMR’s research has found:


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