The scientists, from deCODE genetics and Iceland's National University Hospital, ascertained that having a cousin with endometriosis raises a woman's risk by more than 62 per cent.
Endometriosis is a painful condition where endometrial tissue, which is normally found only in the lining of the uterus, develops outside the womb. The tissue attaches itself to ligaments and organs in the abdominal cavity, but still responds to the menstrual cycle — causing bleeding, pain, inflammation, adhesions, and sometimes infertility.
Australian endometriosis researchers have made use of the Australian Twin Registry, and have joined with the Oxegene project, based at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, to add to the statistical strength of the study. This has now become the biggest genetic endometriosis study in the world.
The collaborators have found that identical (monozygotic) twins are more likely to both have endometriosis than fraternal (dizygotic) twins."This shows there are clearly genetic factors that are involved in endometriosis, rather than just an environmental component," said Dr Smith.A genetic test for a predisposition to endometriosis would have limited value, since there is no cure for the condition. However, a means of early diagnosis would be helpful, he added.
"What many of these genetic approaches are aiming to do is identify a biological factor that can be the basis for developing either a diagnostic test or a therapeutic," explained Dr Smith.