Fibroids grow within and around the wall of the uterus. Thirty percent of women 25 to 44 years of age report fibroid-related symptoms, such as lower back pain, heavy vaginal bleeding or
painful menstrual periods.
Uterine fibroids also are associated with infertility and such pregnancy complications as miscarriage
or preterm labor. There are few treatment options for women experiencing severe fibroid-related symptoms other than surgical removal of the uterus. About 200,000 women in the US. undergo the procedure each year. In terms of total health care expenses and lost productivity, NIH scientists estimated that the economic cost of fibroids to the United States may exceed $34 billion a year, according to a recent analysis.
Fibroids are three to four times more common in African-American women than in white women.
It’s important to note that African-American women are nearly 10 times more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than are white women. In previous research, the study authors found that vitamin D inhibited the growth of human fibroid cells in laboratory cultures.
“The study results provide a promising new lead in the search for a non-surgical treatment for
fibroids that doesn’t affect fertility,” said Louis De Paolo, Ph.D., chief of the Reproductive
Sciences Branch of the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development, which funded the study.
Other researchers involved in the study were scientists from Vanderbilt University Medical
Center, also in Nashville. Their findings appeared online in the journal Biology of Reproduction.
For the current study, the researchers tested the vitamin D treatment on a strain of lab subjects
genetically predisposed to developing fibroid tumors. After examining the subjects and confirming the presence of fibroids in twelve, the researchers divided them into two groups of six (6) each: those that would receive vitamin D and those that would not.
In the first group, small pumps implanted under the skin delivered a continuous dose of vitamin D
for three weeks. The researchers then examined the participants in both groups. Fibroids
increased in size in the untreated group, but, in those receiving vitamin D, the tumors had shrunk
dramatically. On average, uterine fibroids in the group receiving vitamin D were 75 percent
smaller than those in the untreated group.
The amount of vitamin D the participants received each day was equivalent to a human dose of
roughly 1,400 international units. The recommended amount of vitamin D for teens and adults age 70 and under is 600 units daily, although up to 4,000 units is considered safe for children over age 9, adults, and for pregnant and breast-feeding females.
“Additional research is needed to confirm vitamin D as a potential treatment for women with uterine fibroids,” said Dr. Al-Hendy. “But it is also an essential nutrient for the health of muscle, bone and the immune system, and it is important for everyone to receive an adequate amount of the vitamin.”
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are the best natural sources of the vitamin. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D so it should be supplemented. Fortified milk and other fortified foods provide an additional source. Vitamin D is also produced when ultraviolet rays from
sunlight reach the skin.
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
“DihydroxyVitamin D3 Treatment Shrinks Uterine Leiomyoma Tumors”
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2012, March 1).
“Vitamin D shrinks fibroid tumors in rats.”
Biology of Reproduction, 2012;