The possible relationship between sex hormones and genital cancers has received increasing attention in the last 20 years as it has become apparent that sex hormones can be linked to the development or promotion of genital cancers. Many infertile women suffer from hormonal disturbances; in addition, most of these women are exposed to fertility hormonal treatments which alter their endogenous hormonal milieu. Therefore, an important question which should be asked is whether there is an increased cancer risk among the various groups of infertile women. Furthermore, what are the possible explanations which link infertility and cancer, and do fertility treatments increase cancer risk or accelerate cancer progression? In this article, we will discuss how to tell if a woman is infertile, the causes behind infertility and the link between infertility and cancer.
Link Between Female Infertility and Cancer: Things You Should Know
How to Tell if a Woman is Infertile?
Your Flow is Way Off
If you’ve noticed that your periods have been way heavier than normal lately, you should know that heavy menstrual bleeding (or menorhhagia) can be a sign of some health issues that can cause infertility. Menorhhagia can have many different causes; certain medications, IUDs, and even complications with pregnancies can cause heavy vaginal bleeding. However, the most common cause of menorhhagia is a hormone imbalance which results in menstrual cycles without ovulation.
Your Periods are Super Irregular
If your periods are occasionally off by a few days that are probably not a big deal. If your periods are so irregular that you gave up on tracking your menstrual cycle a long time ago, though, then their irregularity could be a sign of a problem. Irregular periods can indicate that you’re not ovulating and if you’re not ovulating, then you can’t get pregnant. Luckily, treatments for an ovulation do exist, so if you are diagnosed with this and want to become pregnant some day, know that things aren’t hopeless.
You Don’t Have Periods At All
If you have never had a period, or you used to have them but they suddenly stopped altogether (and not because you chose to stop your period with medication), then you’re definitely not ovulating — and ovulation is a crucial piece of the fertility puzzle. So, if you don’t have periods at all, that’s a pretty clear sign you could be infertile.
Your Periods are Incredibly Painful
Pain during periods doesn’t always indicate infertility; many of us have suffered from period cramps so bad at times that they’ve made us vomit, but don’t have fertility issues. So if your periods are painful, don’t immediately freak out. That said, if you suffer from serious period pain, pain during sex, abnormal vaginal bleeding, rectal pain, or you’ve noticed blood in your urine or bowl movements, that could mean you have undiagnosed endometriosis.
You’ve Suddenly Developed Severe Acne
Changes in your skin, like the onset of adult acne from seemingly nowhere, could be a sign that your hormone levels are off. More specifically, sudden severe acne could mean that you’re suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS occurs in women who have an excess of androgens, also referred to as “male hormones.” Like endometriosis, PCOS can cause irregular ovulation, or lack of ovulation. Because of this, PCOS can mess with your fertility.
Causes of Infertility and Link Between Female Infertility and Cancer
Damage to your Fallopian Tubes.
These structures carry eggs from your ovaries, which produce eggs, to the uterus, where the baby develops. They can get damaged when scars form after pelvic infections, endometriosis, and pelvic surgery. That can prevent sperm from reaching an egg.
You may not be getting pregnant because your body isn’t going through the usual hormone changes that lead to the release of an egg from the ovary and the thickening of the lining of the uterus.
Some women have a condition that prevents sperm from passing through the cervical canal.
You may have polyps and fibroids that interfere with getting pregnant. Uterine polyps and fibroids happen when too many cells grow in the endometrial, the lining of the uterus. Other abnormalities of the uterus can also interfere,
For about 20% of couples who have infertility problems, the exact causes are never pinpointed.
Link Between Female Infertility and Cancer
The fundamental question that should be considered first and carefully answered is does being infertile cause an increased risk of cancer in these women and, if so, to what extent? Thereafter, it will be possible to determine the potential of ovulation- inducing agents.
Case reports and epidemiological studies identified an association between endometrial cancer and infertility. The major infertility classifications were determined as hormonal (an ovulation and menstrual disturbances) or other causes of infertility (male, mechanical, unclassified). That infertile woman is at an increased risk of contracting endometrial cancer.
Clinical observations have implicated a variety of factors linking breast cancer and endocrine function. A number of established risk factors for breast cancer, such as age, early age of menarche and late menopause, late age at first birth and nulliparity, are related to endogenous hormone production. Continuous unopposed oestrogen stimulation is provided to the breast during the reproductive years, was not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The interrelationship between hormonal conditions, infertility and breast cancer is complex.
However, the most recent studies show that women who suffer from infertility are at increased risk of breast cancer. Moreover, patients affected by the triad of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, which is common in PCOS patients, have a three times increased risk of breast cancer. Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common malignancy in women. This cancer is the fifth leading cause of death in women. There is growing evidence that the reproductive history, such as an impaired ability to conceive, is associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Therefore, to conclude, research is still going on the link between cancer and infertility. However, if you think you are infertile, just be careful and go to the doctor.
D.Meirow and J.G.Schenker, The link between female infertility and cancer:
epidemiology and possible aetiologies. European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology. Human Reproduction Update 1996, Vol. 2, No. 1 pp. 63–75.