Saturday, 24 September 2011

Highlights from WCE 2011: Part 1

As I mentioned briefly in my last post I attended the 11th world congress on endometriosis in Montpellier a few weeks ago. It’s a tough life having to travel to beautifully picturesque Mediterranean cities, but hey, somehow I managed to cope. The main body of the conference was run over three days where experts from all over the world presented their latest research and shared up to date knowledge about endometriosis. If you would like to see the whole program for the conference you can download it here. All in all it was a very enlightening few days, but don’t worry if you couldn’t make it yourself because over the next few weeks I’ll be posting highlights from the conference. Unfortunately, I can’t post about everything that was discussed because it would probably take more years to write than I will live, so I’ve gone through the different talks and posters and picked out the ones that I hope you’ll find the more interesting. I’ll start off with the oral presentations that were given then move onto the posters that were presented. I’ll also give a bit of my own interpretation of the science, but I won’t be doing much critical appraisal. So without further ado, let’s jump straight in.

R.S. Bevan from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UK (S#1-3) presented their work entitled ‘Alcohol consumption and endometriosis: A multi-centre, case-control study

This study took 1,418 women from 10 countries that were undergoing laparoscopic surgery for either suspected endometriosis or tubal ligation. After surgery the main group were divided into three groups: Those who were found to have endometriosis (745 women), those who had symptoms but no disease was found (565) and those women undergoing sterilisation who had neither symptoms nor endometriosis (86). These women were asked to complete a questionnaire which gave included questions about alcohol consumption.

The results of this study showed that alcohol consumption between the three groups of women did not significantly vary. Although there is still more analysis of this data to be done it is still interest to see these preliminary findings. I think there may have been some expectation that alcohol consumption may be increased in women with endometriosis, perhaps due to the fact alcohol can give pain relief, so the results are interesting from that pint of view. There was also some discussion as to whether alcohol consumption increases the risk of endometriosis. I’m not sure whether or not this is folly. Mainly because the symptoms of endometriosis tend to begin around adolescence, but alcohol consumption doesn’t even seriously start for most people until their late teens, so I’m sure whether there could really be any connection between the two.

S.A. Missmer from Havard Medical School in Boston, US (S#1-4) presented their work entitled ‘Vitamin A and endometriosis risk: A prospective cohort study’

This study analysed consumption of different micronutrients in 1382 women with laparoscopically diagnosed endometriosis. What this study found was that increased consumption of vitamin A seems to reduce the risk of endometriosis. Or rather, I should say, reduced the risk of being diagnosed with endometriosis. These investigators reported a 21% reduction in risk of diagnosis of endometriosis when comparing the highest consumers of vitamin A with the lowest, with the association most prominent in women with no history of infertility, who had a BMI below 25 and who had smoked during their lifetime. The investigations are still undergoing to find out why this reduction in diagnosis risk was observed.

M.Kvaskoff from The Gustave Roussy Institute, France (S#1-5) presented their work entitled

Early life events and the risk of endometriosis: The French E3N cohort’

This study analysed questionnaire data from a large group of women with health insurance in France. The purpose of this study was to see if women with endometriosis had exposure to different factors during childhood that made them more susceptible to endometriosis in later life. This study found that both exposure to cats or dogs at home and living on a farm for more than 3 months during childhood increased the risk of endometriosis in later life.

Girls who started their periods before the age of 12 or who had short menstrual cycles before the age of 17 (a short cycle being anything less than 24 days, were also found to be at a higher risk of endometriosis.

Whilst the level of out if school exercise was unrelated to endometriosis risk, more time spent walking (i.e. greater than 5 hours per week) between the ages of 8 and 15 appeared to increase the risk of endometriosis. Higher exposure to UV radiation at place of birth was found to decrease endometriosis. There were a number of early life factors that were found to have no influence over the risk of endometriosis including: birth height/weight, being born premature, breast feeding and maternal smoking.

So what do we make of this study? Well firstly it is important to distinguish causal factors from incidental factors. What do I mean by causal and incidental? Firstly I’ll stop asking rhetoric questions, then I’ll tell you that a causal factor is a factor that is likely to actually increase the risk of endometriosis, whereas a incidental factor is one that is associated with a causal factor so appears to be associated with endometriosis even though it could have no baring directly on the development of the disease.

Let me give you an example; this study found that young girls who undertook more walking exercise were at higher risk of endometriosis. Does this mean that we should stop all young girls from walking so much? No, because if we look at the rest of the results we can see that girls who lived on a farm were at higher risk; girls who lived on a farm are likely to do more walking, so we can see that walking isn’t directly linked to endometriosis risk, rather it is incidentally linked to endo via other factors (such as childhood environment).

More highlights coming soon!


  1. Matt- thank you for this blog, I have recently stumbled upon recovering from endo excision. It is great to know there is research going on out there, I recently saw this story on using fluorescent imaging in ovarian oncology for surgery, which made me wonder if there are any ramifications for florescent imaging of endometriosis using biomarkers. Add it to the "to-do" list!

  2. Thanks for the comment Deb. I remember seeing the ovarian cancer story a few weeks ago and I thought exactly the same thing as you!

    Hope you are recovering well from your surgery
    All the best


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