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adiposity, body size, endometriosis, systematic review



  1. Backonja, Uba
  2. Buck Louis, Germaine M.
  3. Lauver, Diane R.


Background: Endometriosis has been associated with a lean body habitus. However, we do not understand whether endometriosis is also associated with other characteristics of adiposity, including adipose tissue distribution and amount of visceral adipose tissue (VAT; adipose tissue lining inner organs). Having these understandings may provide insights on how endometriosis develops-some of the physiological actions of adipose tissue differ depending on tissue amount and location and are related to proposed mechanisms of endometriosis development.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to review the literature regarding overall adiposity, adipose tissue distribution and/or VAT, and endometriosis.


Methods: We reviewed and synthesized studies indexed in PubMed and/or Web of Science. We included studies that had one or more measures of overall adiposity, adipose tissue distribution, and/or VAT and women with and without endometriosis for comparison. We summarized the findings and commented on the methods used and potential sources of bias.


Results: Of 366 identified publications, 19 (5.2%) were eligible. Two additional publications were identified from reference lists. Current research included measures of overall adiposity (e.g., body figure drawings) or adipose tissue distribution (e.g., waist-to-hip ratio), but not VAT. The weight of evidence indicated that endometriosis was associated with low overall adiposity and with a preponderance of adipose tissue distributed below the waist (peripheral).


Discussion: Endometriosis may be associated with being lean or having peripherally distributed adipose tissue. Well-designed studies with various sampling frameworks and precise measures of adiposity and endometriosis are needed to confirm associations between adiposity measures and endometriosis and delineate potential etiological mechanisms underlying endometriosis.