Background: Phthalates are known to have estrogenic effects in cell models and experimental animals. However, the evidence regarding the effects of phthalates on human reproduction is still limited. We conducted a case-control study to determine whether estrogen-dependent diseases are associated with phthalate exposure and how the glutathione S-transferase M1 (GSTM1; a major detoxification enzyme) genotype modulates the risk.
Methods: We recruited subjects who underwent laparotomy and had pathologic confirmation of endometriosis (EN) (n = 28), adenomyosis (AD) (n = 16) and leiomyoma (LEI) (n = 36) from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at a medical center in Taiwan between 2005 and 2007. Controls (n = 29) were patients without any of the three aforementioned gynecologic conditions. Urine samples were collected before surgery and analyzed for seven phthalate metabolites using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Peripheral lymphocytes were used for GSTM1 genotype determination.
Results: Patients with LEIs had significantly higher levels of total urinary mono-ethylhexyl phthalate (SigmaMEHP; 52.1 versus 18.9 microg/g creatinine, P < 0.05) than the controls, whereas patients with EN had an increased level of urinary mono-n-butyl phthalate (94.1 versus 58.0 microg/g creatinine, P < 0.05). Subjects with GSTM1 null genotype had significantly increased odds for AD relative to those with GSTM1 wild genotype [odds ratio (OR) = 5.30; 95% CI, 1.22-23.1], even after adjustment for age and phthalate exposure. Subjects who carried the GSTM1 null genotype and had a high urinary level of SigmaMEHP showed a significantly increased risk for AD (OR = 10.4; 95% CI, 1.26-85.0) and LEIs (OR = 5.93; 95% CI, 1.10-31.9) after adjustment for age, compared with those with GSTM1 wild-type and low urinary level of SigmaMEHP.
Conclusions: These results suggest that both GSTM1 null and phthalate exposure are associated with AD and LEI. Larger studies are warranted to investigate potential interaction between GSTM1 null and phthalate exposure in the etiology of estrogen-dependent gynecologic conditions.