There’s still a lot of research and development to be done concerning uterine fibroids, in the areas of causes, treatment and prevention. Still, even with the information researchers have gleaned thus far, it does appear that there are significant racial disparities when it comes to uterine fibroids. Research is still lacking, especially when it comes to how this disease affects Hispanic and Asian patients.
What are these disparities?
Indeed, women of African heritage are diagnosed with fibroids roughly three times more frequently than women of European heritage. Moreover, these black women develop fibroids at an earlier age and tend to develop more and larger fibroids, causing them more severe symptoms. The statistics are absolutely shocking, with black women at least twice as likely as white women to remove their uterus through a hysterectomy.
As fibroids cause symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, chronic pain, frequent urination and other digestive issues as well as pain during intercourse, they directly affect quality of life of their unwilling hostesses. It is for this reason that researchers are trying to find causes, toward developing treatment.
Why do they happen?
That would be the million (and millions and millions) dollar question. Theories abound, some with more scientific backing than others. Five possible causes for the disparity may shed light on even your own situation:
The onset of puberty is somewhat earlier in African-American girls in the United States, where most related studies have been done. Taken as a group, African-American girls start their periods about 9 months sooner that Caucasian girls. The reasons for this are not totally clear. Currently, the average age for starting periods in African-American girls is about 12.2 years, and for Caucasian girls it’s 12.9 years. There is still quite a range, however, and girls can start their periods as young as 9 or as old as 15.
Black women in the United States are disproportionately affected by obesity, with almost two-thirds considered obese based on body mass index.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Studies seem to show that darker skin pigmentation requires longer or more intense ultraviolet radiation exposure to synthesize sufficient levels of vitamin D. This translates to generally lower vitamin D levels in darker people living in the same place and with same lifestyle as people with lighter skin.
Compared to whites, members of the minority groups at risk experience higher levels of stress, either at given points or cumulatively over time; and greater exposure to stress accounts for a substantial portion of the health disadvantage of the minorities at risk.
A study using genetic microarray technology has found 145 genes that are overexpressed or under expressed in the uterus of women with fibroids, a step toward discovering a “master switch” gene that may regulate tumor growth. The study also hints that a woman’s susceptibility to fibroids may be inherited from her father.
Erica Marsh, MD is highly involved in fibroids research, having heard about fibroids even as a child, through visiting her aunties in the hospital and taking food to her mother’s friends, so many of whom suffered for years with fibroids. Dr. Marsh practices in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Once she heard that fibroids are the chief justification for hysterectomy surgeries, she decided to devote her career to improving treatment for fibroids.
With experts like Dr. Marsh working hard to uncover the causes for fibroids, which will hopefully point to less invasive and more effective treatments, we look forward to more good news soon, improving the lives of women of all races worldwide.