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Endometriosis and the development of malignant tumours of the pelvis. A review of literature.

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Division of Gynaecologic Oncology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University Hospital Leuven, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


For several decades, endometriosis has been suspected of playing a role in the aetiology of ovarian cancer. The literature concerning a possible histogenesis of ovarian cancer from benign endometriosis is reviewed in this chapter. Epidemiological evidence from large-cohort studies confirms endometriosis as an independent risk factor for ovarian cancer. Further circumstantial evidence for this link was found in the common risk factors for ovarian cancer and endometriosis. These risk factors influence retrograde menstruation and endometriosis in the same positive or negative way. Based on data in the literature, the prevalence of endometriosis in epithelial ovarian cancer has been calculated to be 4.5, 1.4, 35.9, and 19.0% for serous, mucinous, clear-cell and endometrioid ovarian carcinoma, respectively. The risk of malignant transformation in ovarian endometriosis was calculated at 2.5% but this might be an underestimate. In addition, some authors described atypical endometriosis in a spatial and chronological association with ovarian cancer. Finally, molecular studies have detected common alterations in endometriosis and ovarian cancer. These data suggest that some tumours, especially endometrioid and clear-cell carcinomas, can arise from endometriosis. Moreover, endometriosis-associated ovarian cancer represents a distinct clinical entity, with a more favourable biological behaviour, given a lower stage distribution and better survival than non-endometriosis-associated ovarian cancer.

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