About 60 percent of African American women suffer from fibroids by the time they are 35. 80 percent suffer from fibroids by the time they are 50.

African American women and fibroids – no clear cause

While the prevalence of fibroids among African-American women is well known, the causes are less clear. The research that has been completed, however, does offer a few clues. One of the things we are most sure about when it comes to the causes of fibroids in the uterus is the contribution of estrogen and progesterone to fibroid growth. The higher the levels of these hormones, and the longer a woman is exposed to them, the higher her risk of developing fibroids. This is one of the reasons that an earlier start of menstruation can lead to a greater risk of developing fibroids.

This early menarche (start of menstruation) could be one reason that African American women suffer disproportionately from fibroids in the uterus. About 62 percent of African American girls begin menstruating by the time they turn 12. Only 35 percent of white girls do the same.

In addition, genetics seem to correlate with the development of fibroids in the uterus. Daughters of women who have fibroids have a three times greater chance of developing fibroids themselves.

Finally, there may even be evidence that hair relaxers can contribute. It is thought that the chemicals from the relaxers make their way into the body through burns on the scalp. Some hair relaxers contain phthalates. These chemicals can interfere with the endocrine system, which regulates the hormones. Levels of phthalates that can be detected in a woman’s urine have been associated with an increased risk of developing uterine fibroids. However, because the FDA does not regulate hair relaxers, this theory is harder to prove.

Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, is found in certain foods, especially in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Your body also produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Studies have shown that vitamin D has the ability to regulate the immune system and may limit the production of fibrous tissue by fibroid cells, thus preventing fibroids from developing.

A Few Suggestions

While the causes of fibroids in the uterus are not well established, there are enough clues to help African American women make lifestyle changes that can reduce their chances of developing fibroids. The first step is to consider ending any hair care routine that requires the use of hair relaxers.

The second step is to exercise regularly. Exercises lowers the amount of estrogen in the body. In addition, it can contribute to healthy weight loss. And, since body fat serves as the second largest source of estrogen in the woman’s body, losing weight can also reduce one’s risk of developing fibroids.

Finally, diet changes can lower one’s risk of developing fibroids. In particular, consider consuming broccoli, cauliflower, fish, flaxseed, and whole grains. Women who do so tend to develop fewer fibroids. Caffeine and wine in moderation can also help to lower one’s fibroid risk. It is not know for sure whether soy increases your risk and there is an ongoing  debate regarding the impact of the estrogen-like elements within soy on the woman’s body. You should also make sure that you are getting an adequate amount of vitamin D in your diet and from exposure to sunlight.

Knowledge is power. Knowing what the risks are and how to mitigate them can help you  lower your risk of developing fibroids, or help someone you love to do the same.

The doctors at Viva Eve have years of experience in the treatment of both uterine fibroids and adenomyosis through Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). 

At Viva Eve we are committed to providing high-quality, personalized care for each and every patient we see. We will partner with you to determine the best way to treat your problematic fibroids or adenomyosis. 

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