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Study links cadmium levels in women's urine to endometriosis

A new study by Michigan State University researchers has found that women with a history of endometriosis had higher concentrations of cadmium in their urine compared to those without that diagnosis.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, suggests that the toxic metal cadmium could be linked to the development of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a gynecologic condition in which tissue that looks like the lining of the uterus, or womb, appears outside the uterus. Those with endometriosis can experience chronic, painful and debilitating symptoms, which can interfere with all aspects of life.

Cadmium is a toxic metal and a "metalloestrogen," meaning it can act like the hormone estrogen. In the U.S., people are commonly exposed to cadmium by breathing in cigarette smoke and eating contaminated food like spinach and lettuce.

The researchers say further studies are needed to confirm their findings, but the study's findings suggest that reducing cadmium exposure could be a potential way to prevent endometriosis.

"This is an important finding because it suggests that there may be an environmental factor that we can modify to help prevent endometriosis," said Kristen Upson, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the MSU College of Human Medicine and senior author of the study.

"Endometriosis is a very complex disease, and there are likely many factors that contribute to its development," Upson said. "But this study suggests that cadmium exposure may be one of those factors."

The researchers say that their findings could lead to new prevention strategies for endometriosis. For example, they say that women who are at high risk of developing endometriosis could be advised to reduce their exposure to cadmium.

"This study is a good first step in understanding the role of cadmium in endometriosis," Upson said. "But more research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine how cadmium exposure can be reduced to prevent this disease."

Journal Information: Mandy Hall et al, Urinary cadmium and endometriosis prevalence in a U.S. nationally-representative sample: Results from NHANES 1999-2006, Human Reproduction (2023). DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dead117
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