Environmental Dioxins and Endometriosis
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Endometriosis is a common gynecologic problem of unknown etiology. Estrogen dependence and immune modulation are established features of this disease, and environmental contaminants have been suggested to play a role in the pathobiology of this disease as well. Previous work in nonhuman primates has shown that exposure to the dioxin 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is associated with an increased prevalence and severity of endometriosis. Further animal experiments have implicated dioxin and dioxin-like compounds in this disease. Rodent studies support the plausibility of a role of environmental contaminants in the pathophysiology of endometriosis, although a convincing mechanistic hypothesis has yet to be advanced. Small hospital-based case-control studies have failed to provide compelling evidence for or against an association of environmental contaminants and endometriosis. Herein we review evidence that dioxin and dioxin-like compounds are potent modulators of immune and endocrine function critical to the pathobiology of endometriosis. Furthermore, perspectives on the potential mechanism(s) of dioxin and dioxin-like compound-induced toxicity in endometriosis, important knowledge needs, potential animal models for endometriosis studies, and considerations integral to future human case-control studies are discussed.
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