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Iron Therapy Shows Promise Against Endometriosis

One in 10 women suffer from the painful uterine condition, experts say

WEDNESDAY, July 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A treatment that eases iron overload could help women fight painful endometriosis, researchers report.

Endometriosis is a disorder in which endometrial tissue develops outside the uterus, and attaches to ligaments and organs in the abdomen. The disease can cause bleeding, pain, inflammation, adhesions and infertility. Experts say up to 10 percent of women may be affected.

In their study with mice, Belgian researchers concluded that an overload of iron in the pelvic cavity may help make these lesions grow by promoting the proliferation of their epithelial (lining) cells. This iron overload does not actually cause endometriosis, the study said.

Reporting in the current issue of Human Reproduction, the researchers also found that treatment with an "iron chelater" -- molecules that attach to metal ions and neutralize their harmful effects on the body -- can reduce cell proliferation in the lesions.

"Our findings represent a crucial step in finding the answer to endometriosis, because we are focusing our research more on the origins and causes of the disease in the context of prevention than on surgical treatment when the disease is already present," research leader Jacques Donnez, head of the department of gynecology at the Catholic University of Louvain, said in a prepared statement.

"We really hope that, in the future, genetics will help us determine the population of young women at high risk of endometriosis and that treatment, resulting from our findings, may then prevent the development or evolution of the disease," Donnez said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about endometriosis.

SOURCE: European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, news release, July 26, 2006
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