Environmental Endocrine Disruptors and Endometriosis.


As a consequence of industrialization, thousands of man-made chemicals have been developed with few undergoing rigorous safety assessment prior to commercial use. Ubiquitous exposure to these compounds, many of which act as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), has been suggested to be one factor in the increasing incidence of numerous diseases, including endometriosis. Endometriosis, the presence of endometrial glands and stroma outside the uterus, is a common disorder of reproductive-age women. Although a number of population-based studies have suggested that exposure to environmental EDCs may affect a woman's risk of developing this disease, results of epidemiology assessments are often equivocal. The development of endometriosis is, however, a process occurring over time; thus, a single assessment of toxicant body burden cannot definitively be linked to causation of disease. For this reason, numerous investigators have utilized a variety of rodent models to examine the impact of specific EDCs on the development of experimental endometriosis. These studies identified multiple chemicals capable of influencing physiologic processes necessary for the establishment and/or survival of ectopic tissues in rodents, suggesting that these compounds may also be of concern for women. Importantly, these models serve as useful tools to explore strategies that may prevent adverse outcomes following EDC exposure.