- Published on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 03:15
- Written by Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Got a question about fibroids? Text them to "646464" (OHOHOH).
While medical researchers have not been able to pinpoint exactly what causes uterine fibroids in women, studies have suggested that family history, a diet heavy with red meat and obesity may all be contributing factors.
One study released this year by researchers at Boston University, however, suggested there may be a link between the kinds of hair relaxers used by millions of black women to increased instances of fibroid tumors.
Dr. Ray L. Howell, an obstetrician, gynecologist, and surgeon based in Atlanta who has specialized in women’s issues for 25 years, has co-authored the book, “Black Women and Fibroids: A Conversation with Black Women,” that cites the study conducted between 1997 and 2009, involving 23,580 pre-menopausal African-American women. The study found 7,146 cases of fibroids—a rate two to three times higher than for women who did not use relaxers.
The increased incidence may be linked to exposure to thyalates, chemicals added to the perfume portion of relaxers that may mimic estrogen-like materials that encourage fibroid growth. It is believed they may enter the body through scalp lesions and burns caused by relaxers.
Howell’s said the study was not conclusive enough to make a direct link between hair relaxers and fibroids and further study was warranted. It did urge women who use relaxers, however, to avoid getting scalp burns or scars from the formulas to reduce the chances of thyalates getting into the bloodstream.
Fibroid tumors grow in the uterus, generally are not cancerous and can be as small as a pea or grow as large as a melon. It is estimated that 20-50 percent of women, overall, have, or will have, fibroids at some time in their lives, while 80 percent of African-American women are likely to get them before the age of 50.
Fibroid tumors are 2 to 3 times more common in African-American women than other American women, tend to be larger, more numerous, more symptomatic, and black women get them at an earlier age. Fibroids can cause or contribute to pelvic pain, heavy bleeding, infertility, and miscarriages, and are the leading cause of hysterectomies for black women who have a threefold higher risk for hysterectomies compared with white women.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Services is conducting a fibroid growth study, funded jointly by the Institute and the National Center for Research on Minority Health and Health Disparities, to investigate why some fibroids grow and cause symptoms while others do not.
Studies done to date have not made definitive links to causes or patterns of fibroid development, but Howell has said there are interesting correlations that merit further study.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, reported that women with higher glycemic index levels had an increased risk for fibroids. Sugary drinks, pastries, white bread and white rice all have high glycemic indices that can lead to blood sugar spikes and higher insulin levels, which are linked to other hormones believed to encourage the fibroid growth.
That study also said there was evidence that women who eat a lot of beef, ham and other red meats may be at a higher risk of fibroids, while diets rich in fish, green vegetables and fruit appear to decrease the risk. Women who ate two servings of fruit each day were less likely to have fibroids. The study said antioxidants in the fruit may reduce the risk.
Another study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology of over 22,000 black women who consumed milk, cheese, ice cream, or other dairy products at least once a day were less likely to develop fibroids than those who consumed dairy more frequently.
Can fibroids be on the outside of the body?
Uterine fibroids are only found inside the body.
I was told by an OB/GYN that fibroid tumors are contributed to a mutated cell. Could it be that this study & the mutated cell is co-related?
The issues in this study and the information you may have gathered from your OB/GYN are different. Cellular mutations have to do with genetics. Please view the following website for more detail information regarding fibroids and genetic mutations. www.fibroids.net
I have very large fibroids. My doctor wants me to have a hysterectomy, but I'm not sure I want to. He insists it's the best option. Do you usually recommend this?
It depends. If they are very large and interfering with other vital organ function this may be your only option. However, I would encourage you to ask your physician about other options like UAE (Uterine Artery Embolization) or Myomectomy and also medication that may help shrink your fibroids, like GnRH agonist (Lupron).
If I am 43 and I haven't had a cycle for 3 months. What all could cause that? I have fibroids too.
There are quite a few possibilities, thus I would suggest you visit your physician provider for evaluation. It is possible that you could be pre-menopausal and if so, there is a chance your fibroids might shrink.
I had fibroids & elected to have a partial hysterectomy. Can I still develop fibroids?
It is very unlikely. If your cervix was left during your hysterectomy procedure, there is a very small risk that a fibroid could develop.
I had a fibroid removed about 5 years ago and it made my cycle irregular. Will it return to normal?
Removal of your fibroid should have helped with your cycles. There may be additional or different problems present. I would suggest seeing your OB/GYN physician for further evaluation of your cycles.
I had the embolization surgery and have noticed a great relief, but when I eat dairy, I have noticable discomfort. Did your study include dairy products?
Studies on dairy products are inconclusive. Some studies have found that dairy products help decrease the risk of fibroids and some say it may increase the risk while others say it has no effect on fibroids or fibroid development. However, it would be wise for you to consult your physician about your abdominal discomfort as it could be other medical issues present such as lactose intolerance.
What about PCOS? Does that cause or increase your chance for fibroids?
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) may increase the risk of fibroids.
I heard coffee causes these tumors too.
In 2004, a study published in human production was done to assess the effect of caffeine on fibroid growth and it showed that caffeine did not cause growth of fibroids. However, other studies done on caffeine have showed that women who drink more than 5 cups of coffee per day may have increased estrogen levels.
Can fibroids be detected during a pap smear? If not, what tests have to performed?
A pap smear is a test to detect the presence of abnormal cell of the cervix. However, during most pap smear testing the OB/GYN physician will perform a pelvic exam as well which can help detect the presence of any fibroids. Other test that are helpful in detecting fibroids include ultrasound, hysterogram, hystero-sonogram, MRI and CT scan.
I do get relaxers and have never heard this information. I have had surgery once for fibroids and currently take flaxseed everyday, but they have returned. Will they ever go away once you have had them?
There is a possibility of spontaneous shrinkage, however, it is not uncommon for fibroids to return after a myomectomy. Up to 50% of women post myomectomy will have either new fibroids or growth of fibroids that were not detected during the first surgery. Flaxseeds may help with symptoms of fibroids and some studies have suggested that due to the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseed it may help with reduction of tumor size.
Is there a website that I can read more out about uterine fibroids?
Recommend web sites:
Black Women and Fibroids: A Conversation with Black Women
I was just found out I have fibroids and one is large enough to have me looking like 4 months pregnant? Can turn cancerous?
Fibroid tumors are non-cancerous and fibroids will not turn cancerous. However, if your fibroids are growing or becoming larger, especially over a short time period, I would suggest you consult with a physician that specializes in women’s care, an obstetrician/gynecologist.
Once you have them can you get rid of them?
Yes. Once fibroids are present, there are medical (Lupron, oral contraceptive medication, anti-inflammatory drugs) and surgical (myomectomy, embolization, ablation) treatment options available based upon specific circumstances, symptoms, fertility, and fibroid size and location. A complete list of treatment options can be found in Black Women and Fibroids: A Conversation with Black Women.
What are some symptoms?
Some of the symptoms of fibroids include the following: pelvic pain and cramping, abnormal vaginal bleeding, abnormal menstrual cycles, pain with intercourse, heavy vaginal bleeding with cycles, bloating, low back pain, frequent urination and/or in some cases, reproductive, pregnancy or labor complications.
What is a fibroid?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths (benign tumors made of muscle fibers) of the uterus. They are also called fibromyomas, leiomymomas or myomas.
What about men who use relaxers?
I am not aware of any medical issues in men with the use of relaxers relating to any endocrine disruptions leading to potential problems. I would suggest that men follow the same precautions when using relaxer products as women.
If you have them, will your daughters get them?
Having a family member with fibroids increases your risk. If a mother has or had fibroids, the risk to her daughter is about three (3) times higher than other women.
Are you saying that the chemical only exists in African-American relaxers, not in the products of white women?
Most hair relaxers contain the chemical known as pthalates, not just those use by African-Americans.
How do fibroids relate to chronic anemia? What are some of the reliefs?
Because fibroids can cause irregular, unpredictable and heavy bleeding it is not uncommon to see anemia in some patients. There are treatment options for anemia as well as for the fibroids. Consulting with an OB/GYN physician can be helpful in providing you a list of treatment options for both. Finding a qualified physician and learning more about what options are available is paramount.
I'm a 29 man & every time I let my hair grow out, even a little, I get hair bumps, scabs & dandruff. What can I do to fix this & get it to grow more?
I would recommend that you seek a qualified dermatologist to evaluate the scalp and hair follicles.
Last year I had two fibroids to degenerate. It was very painful. When my cycle is on, I feel a lot of pressure in my abdomen. Should I just consider a hysterectomy? I'm turning 40 in two months.
Hysterectomy is an option, but there may be other options available to you such as UAE, Myomectomy, or Myolsis. I would recommend a thorough evaluation and consultation regarding treatment options with a gynecologist or a pelvic surgeon.
How can I shrink my fibroids?
Options for possible shrinkage of fibroids include: becoming menopausal, medical therapy or minimally invasive treatments such as Myolysis or UAE (Uterine Artery Embolization). Please consult a qualified gynecologist and/or an interventional radiologist for an evaluation and to discuss your treatment options.
What should a black woman do if she has been diagnosed with these tumors & she doesn't have money to get them removed?
If your tumors are not large and they are not causing any symptoms, you may be able to just watch them with regular pelvic exams by your OB/GYN physician. If they are causing problems, I suggest you discuss all your treatment options with your OB/GYN physician. Removal may not be required.
If you already have painfully large fibroids, can you reduce them by eliminating perms and changing the diet?
Changing your diet and stopping perms probably will not make them go away or stop the pain. I would suggest a consultation with a gynecologist for evaluation and treatment options to make sure that the large fibroids are not causing any other reasons for your pain.
Has there been a link to birth control pills or birth control pills and the relaxer with cysts and cancer?
I am unaware of any links or associations of birth control pills and relaxers.
What role does genetics play in uterine fibroids?
The Center for Uterine Fibroids have identified mutations in two genes, (HMGI(C) and HMGI(Y)), that may, along with other yet to be identified genes, affect the formation of some fibroids. May I also refer you to the following site for further insight: www.fibroids.net
What is the treatment/solution for fibroids?
The treatment and/or options for treatment are generally divided into the following: observation, medical therapies, and surgical options. Depending on any specific circumstances, one or a combination of treatment options may be chosen. A detailed summary is found in the book Black Women and FIbroids: A Conversation with Black Women at www.amazon.com.
Do fibroids contribute to infertility? What is the percentage?
Fibroids can interfere with infertility but it is very seldom. When it does, it is usually a specific type of the fibroid (submucosal) or the location of the fibroid.
What if you stop using the perm for a year or more? Will it decrease your fibroids and can you get pregnant?
A decrease in size or shrinkage of fibroids can occur spontaneously. Fibroids seldom interfere with achieving pregnancy. See above #17 answer also.
What decreases the risk of fibroids?
Dietary intake that decreases the risk of fibroids includes green vegetables, fruits and fish. Limiting the amount of sugars, white bread, pastries and white rice might help decrease your risk of fibroids also.