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NIH Funds Study to Understand Relationship Between Endometriosis, Infertility, and Stroke in Women

Leslie V Farland, ScD, and Melanie L Bell, PhD

Leslie V Farland, ScD, and Melanie L Bell, PhD

Dr. Leslie V Farland and Dr. Melanie L Bell at the UArizona Mel & Enid College of Public Health will lead an NIH funded research study that investigates the association between endometriosis, infertility, and stroke burden in women.

Leslie V Farland, ScD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, will study the association between endometriosis, infertility, and risk of stroke. Dr. Farland will collaborate with Melanie L Bell, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Biostatistics as well as colleagues at Michigan State University and Harvard Medical School. The study is funded by a $442,000, two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This study will build on prior endometriosis research supported by an Endometriosis Foundation of America award Dr. Farland received in 2018, which she worked on with MEZCOPH DrPH student, William Degnan.

Endometriosis is a chronic gynecology disease experienced by approximately 10% of all women. It occurs when endometrial-like tissue, which is usually found lining the walls of the uterus, is located outside the uterus and is characterized by increased levels of inflammation and aberrant immune function. It can be incredibly painful, causing loss of productivity and infertility.

Women with endometriosis are at a two-fold increased risk of infertility and endometriosis diagnoses represent 20-50% of all infertility diagnoses. Recent research has suggested that women with endometriosis as well as women with infertility may be at an increased risk of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases later in life.

Despite a disproportionate burden in women, stroke is particularly understudied in relation to endometriosis and infertility. Moreover, very few studies have investigated the role of endometriosis in the presence and absence of infertility. This study is an opportunity to investigate endometriosis and infertility as a marker of stroke risk using data from over 116,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. These women were enrolled in 1989 and have been followed every two years to collect detailed information on a variety of health and lifestyle factors. This research is the first step toward understanding the association between endometriosis, infertility, and stroke burden and the mechanisms underlying these associations. It is hoped that this study will provide insights that shape future research into etiology, prevention, management, and treatment for women with endometriosis.  

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