Tall, thin girls, adolescents and young women are at higher risk of developing endometriosis, according to a study by U.S. and French researchers.
How body composition influences the risk of endometriosis is a matter of debate. Researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and INSERM at the Paris-Saclay University in France hypothesized that hormone-related factors play a role.
The study, “Associations among body size across the life course, adult height and endometriosis,” confirmed earlier research on the connection between body composition and endometriosis. It was published in the journal Human Reproduction.
Researchers found 2,416 French women diagnosed with endometriosis among 61,208 who were part of a prospective study. That kind of study is a long-term look at people with mostly similar characteristics, such as age.
Since cancer can impact a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis, the researchers excluded those with a history of cancer from the study.
Women who were lean at 8 years old, when they had their first period, or when they were 20–25 years old were at higher risk of developing endometriosis than those with average or stouter body sizes, the team found.
They also found a link between body size when a woman was older and endometriosis, but it was not statistically significant.
The link between leanness and endometriosis held up when researchers accounted for factors such as the age when a woman had her first period, whether she had used oral contraceptives, and the level of her physical activity.
In terms of height, the study found that women 165 cm (about 5-5) or taller were more likely to have endometriosis than women who were less than 158 cm (5-2 feet). One hundred sixty-five centimeters equates to about 5 feet, 5 inches and 158 cm to about 5 feet, 2 inches.
Another finding was that those of medium height were at higher risk of developing endometriosis than those who were shorter.
Several factors can influence height, so the research team also measured a woman’s height while sitting and her leg length. Women with a sitting height of 87 cm — about 34 inches — or more were at increased risk of developing endometriosis than those with a sitting height of 82 cm — about 32 inches — or less. There was no correlation between leg length and the disease.