Endometriosis: epidemiology and aetiological factors

Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2004 Apr;18(2):177-200. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2004.01.007.


Estimates of the frequency of endometriosis vary widely. Based on the few reliable data, the prevalence of the condition can reasonably be assumed to be around 10%. Although no consistent information is available on the incidence of the disease, temporal trends suggest an increase among women of reproductive age. This could be explained-at least in part-by changing reproductive habits. Numerous epidemiological studies have indicated that nulliparous women and women reporting short and heavy menstrual cycles are at increased risk of developing endometriosis; data on other risk factors are less consistent. These epidemiological findings strongly support the menstrual reflux hypothesis. Additional evidence in favour of this theory includes the demonstration of viable endometrial cells in the menstrual effluent and peritoneal fluid, experimental implantation and growth of endometrium within the peritoneal cavity, observation of some degree of retrograde menstruation in most women undergoing laparoscopy during menses, and an association between obstructed menstrual outflow and endometriosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contraceptives, Oral / administration & dosage
  • Endometriosis / epidemiology*
  • Endometriosis / etiology*
  • Endometriosis / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Menstrual Cycle
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Diseases / etiology
  • Peritoneal Diseases / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Vaginal Diseases / etiology


  • Contraceptives, Oral