Endometriosis is primarily characterized by the presence of tissue resembling endometrium outside the uterine cavity and is usually diagnosed by laparoscopy. The most commonly used classification of disease, the revised American Fertility Society (rAFS) system to grade endometriosis into different stages based on disease severity (I to IV), has been questioned as it does not correlate well with underlying symptoms, posing issues in diagnosis and choice of treatment. Using two independent European genome-wide association (GWA) datasets and top-level classification of the endometriosis cases based on rAFS [minimal or mild (Stage A) and moderate-to-severe (Stage B) disease], we previously showed that Stage B endometriosis has greater contribution of common genetic variation to its aetiology than Stage A disease. Herein, we extend our previous analysis to four endometriosis stages [minimal (Stage I), mild (Stage II), moderate (Stage III) and severe (Stage IV) disease] based on the rAFS classification system and compared the genetic burden across stages. Our results indicate that genetic burden increases from minimal to severe endometriosis. For the minimal disease, genetic factors may contribute to a lesser extent than other disease categories. Mild and moderate endometriosis appeared genetically similar, making it difficult to tease them apart. Consistent with our previous reports, moderate and severe endometriosis showed greater genetic burden than minimal or mild disease. Overall, our results provide new insights into the genetic architecture of endometriosis and further investigation in larger samples may help to understand better the aetiology of varying degrees of endometriosis, enabling improved diagnostic and treatment modalities.
Keywords: endometriosis; genetic burden; genome-wide association studies; polygenic prediction; rAFS classification system.
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