A common question patients ask is “What causes fibroids?” The answer is, “There are several factors involved.”
Ethnicity is a Component of Fibroids
Probably the strongest component is race. Eighty percent of black women have fibroids, but only 30 percent of white women do. Hispanic women are in between those numbers, and fibroids are least likely in Asian women. So if you’re African-American, your odds of having fibroids are very high.
Fibroids Are Affected by Genetics
Genetics are probably involved in the racial differences. If your mother or sister has fibroids, it’s much more likely that you will too. There are specific genes that control a receptor on fibroid cells that are different between black and white women. And there are racial differences in a couple of genes that control the production and breakdown of estrogen. And estrogen is very important.
Estrogen Plays a Part in Fibroids
Fibroids are fed by estrogen, which your body starts making when menstruation starts. The more estrogen you have, the higher your chance of fibroids. That means that if you started menstruation early, you’re exposed to estrogen for a longer time and your risk of fibroids is higher. When you get pregnant, your estrogen level goes down. So the more times you’re pregnant, the lower your chance of fibroids. While you’re nursing your baby, the estrogen level stays low. So the longer you nurse, the lower your chance of fibroids. As you get older, you’re exposed to your own estrogen for a longer and longer time, so the risk of fibroids goes up as you get older. But when you go through menopause, your estrogen level drops off. At that point, you shouldn’t get any new fibroids, and the ones you have usually start to shrink.
And heads up! Besides being made by the ovaries, estrogen is also made in fat cells. This means that the more excess fat on your body, the higher your chance of fibroids.
Other Factors of Causes for Fibroids
There are other factors involved too for the causes of fibroids. Stress, diabetes, high blood pressure, and pelvic infections have all been shown to increase the risk of fibroids. Dietary choices also play a role. Foods with a high glycemic index (sugary foods), red meat, ham, and beer all increase the risk. Some foods are protective against fibroids, including fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Vitamin D is protective, and so is exercise.
One surprising factor is that hair relaxer increases the risk of fibroids. The longer a woman has used it, and the more times she has had a scalp burn from it, the higher the chance of fibroids.
There almost certainly are other factors involved. There’s a lot we know about fibroids, but for a problem that affects so many women, there’s a lot we still don’t know.
Treat Fibroids without Surgery or a Hysterectomy
One thing we know for sure is that if your fibroids are causing you problems, they can be treated without a hysterectomy and without surgery. If you’d like to talk about having a Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), please contact Dr. Suzanne Slonim for a free phone consultation here: FibroidFree.com/help. She would be happy to discuss your situation.