Many women with uterine fibroids experience little to no symptoms or complications that require treatment. Women who do experience uterine fibroid symptoms may suffer from pelvic pain, abnormal menstruation, and a variety of other conditions. Pregnant women who also have fibroids may experience complications sometimes resulting in miscarriage, premature birth, and other difficulties.
Although no precise answers exist for the development of uterine fibroid tumors, there is a link between fibroids and estrogen production. Fibroids do not develop until the body begins producing estrogen during the onset of menstruation. During the reproductive years, hormonal imbalance can cause fibroids to form and grow. Hormonal imbalance occurs when estradiol and progesterone are not present in the proper proportions, often referred to as estrogen dominance. The most common imbalance that causes fibroids is low progesterone in ratio to estrogen.
Progesterone production decreases during the 30’s and 40’s. When additional estrogens, such as those found in birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, or plant and environmental estrogens are brought into the mix, hormonal imbalance can occur. Additionally, fibroid tumors may grow very quickly during pregnancy when the body is producing extra estrogens.
Fibroids often shrink and disappear after menopause when the body stops producing as much estradiol. However, if a woman has used hormone replacement therapy for many years, there is a possibility that she may have an excess of stored estrogens that can prevent fibroids from shrinking after menopause. A woman will almost never develop fibroid tumors after menopause.
Fibroids are three to four times more common in African-American women than in white women. Moreover, African-American women are roughly 10 times more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than are white women. Some research suggests that vitamin D can inhibit the growth of human fibroid cells in laboratory cultures. Recently, researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center tested the vitamin D treatment on a strain of rats genetically predisposed to developing fibroid tumors. During the study, rats with uterine fibroids were treated with vitamin D for at least three weeks and similar rats with uterine fibroids were not treated.
It was found that 75% of the rats who were provided with vitamin D benefited from the treatment, the tumors had shrunk dramatically. However, the rats who were not treated, witnessed growth of uterine fibroids. Further research is required so that a concrete conclusion can be drawn. It is hoped that the researchers will soon be able to find a treatment for uterine fibroids which, in turn, will reduce the need of surgery for women with fibroids.