Washington: Italian researchers have found that women with the most severe form of endometriosis happen to be unusually attractive and speculate that the qualities that led to the women’s good looks also predisposed them to the painful gynecological condition.
In a study, independent observers rated 31 percent of women with severe endometriosis as attractive or very attractive, while just 8 percent of women with milder endometriosis, and 9 percent of women without the condition were rated that highly.
“Several researchers believe that a general phenotype exists which is associated with the disease,” Live Science quoted study researcher Dr. Paolo Vercellini, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Universita degli Studi in Milan, as saying.
It may be that a more feminine body type is the result of the same physical characteristics that predispose women to develop severe endometriosis, Vercellini said.
In endometriosis, cells that normally line the uterus leave the organ and become deposited in other sites within the body, such as on the ovaries, rectum, bladder or pelvic area. These deposits respond the same way as normal uterine cells do to the hormone changes that occur over a woman``s monthly cycle — they thicken, and then shrink — which can cause pain in the pelvic region, and bleeding.
Endometriosis is thought to affect 5 to 10 percent of women. The severe form, called rectovaginal endometriosis, is much less common than milder forms, Vercellini said.
Researchers looked at 100 women with rectovaginal endometriosis, 100 women with less severe endometriosis, and 100 women without endometriosis who were undergoing gynecologic surgery for other reasons. Most of the women in the studies were in their late 20s or early 30s.
Two male and two female doctors who did not know the women``s diagnoses met with each woman for a few minutes, and rated her overall attractiveness on a 5-point scale.
Results showed that the women with severe endometriosis had lower body mass indexes, and larger breasts, than those without the disease.
It also showed that women with severe endometriosis were more likely to have had sexual intercourse before age 18. This could be a result of these women being more attractive, even during adolescence, the researchers said.
While it``s not exactly clear why women with severe endometriosis may be more attractive than others, the hormone estrogen could play a role, the researchers said.
Studies have shown that more-attractive women have higher levels of estrogen, and higher levels of the hormone also may be linked with the development of endometriosis.
On the other hand, it could be that the same genes that play a role in women’s physical appearance also raise the risk of developing severe endometriosis.
“It is tempting to speculate” that genes that interact with hormones to produce a more feminine appearance may also predispose women to severe endometriosis, Vercellini said.
However, the findings are preliminary and need to be verified in further studies, he said.
The study was published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility.