Women with endometriosis may be more likely to have a close relative with the disease. However, research into the potential link is still developing.
Endometriosis is a complex condition. Many factors beyond heredity may increase a person’s risk of developing it.
Is endometriosis hereditary?
More research is necessary to determine if endometriosis has a hereditary component.
Preliminary research suggests that endometriosis may have a hereditary component. However, it is unlikely that genetics are the only or the most influential risk factor.
A 2010 study included 80 participants with endometriosis and 60 without it. Those with endometriosis were more likely to have a relative with the condition.
About 5.9% of participants with endometriosis had a first-degree relative with the condition, compared with just 3% of those without the disease.
While the likelihood of having a relative with the condition was almost doubled in the endometriosis group, the absolute risk was very low.
The study did not find significant differences in symptoms when they compared women with endometriosis and a family history of the disease and those with endometriosis but no family history.
There are many complicating factors. For example, many doctors were ill-informed about endometriosis until recently, and they often missed the diagnosis. Research indicates that as many as 70% of cases in the 1970s were undetected.
This means that mothers and other relatives of people with endometriosis may have had the condition but never received a diagnosis.
Is there an endometriosis gene?
Researchers continue to look for specific genetic causes of endometriosis.
One potential target is a variant of a gene called transforming growth factor β1 gene-509C/T. However, a 2012 meta-analysis of prior research did not find a significant link between this gene and the condition.
A 2019 review has listed more than two dozen genes that various studies have linked to endometriosis. The researchers have failed to demonstrate that any specific gene inevitably causes the condition.
Instead, researchers suggest that interactions between genes and the environment may play a role. According to a 2016 review, epigenetic factors may play a role in endometriosis. These are factors that regulate gene expression.
A person with a gene that increases the risk of endometriosis may not develop the disease without exposure to certain epigenetic risk factors, such as stress or pollution.
Because family members often live in similar environments, epigenetic risk factors may be shared within a family.
Other endometriosis risk factors
A woman with endometriosis may experience periods that occur unusually frequently and last longer than 7 days.
Women with endometriosis may be more likely to have had their first periods before the age of 11 and more likely to experience infertility.
Beyond the potential genetic link, a range of factors may increase the risk of developing endometriosis, including:
lifestyle and environmental factors, such as stress, exposure to pollution, and exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals
The risk of endometriosis increases with age. This may stem from accumulating effects of lifestyle and environmental factors. Or, it could be that genes linked with endometriosis change with age.