Uterine fibroids – noncancerous tumors that grow on or in the muscle of the uterus – affect 20-40% of women by the time they are in their 40s. But African-American women are three times more likely to have fibroids and the tumors can set in even earlier in life.
Although there are no known ways to prevent uterine fibroids, there are some factors that may be reasons that black women are at a higher risk.
A study done on 23,000 African American women showed that women who used hair relaxing products were more likely to have fibroids. Specifically, fibroids may be linked to the chemical exposure through scalp burns that result from relaxers.
Girls who got their first period before age 10 were more likely to get uterine fibroids later in life, and early periods may also be linked to the chemicals in hair relaxers. A study was done on 300 women of various ethnicities and found that black girls were more likely to get their period at a younger age and more likely to use hair-relaxing products.
However, there is no specific evidence showing that the use of hair relaxers or early puberty cause fibroids. These things are linked only through association, in that women who use hair relaxer have a higher instance of uterine fibroids.
Because uterine fibroids have a higher prevalence in black women, they may already run in the family, which puts women today at an even higher risk. If a woman’s mother has had fibroids, the daughter is about three times more likely to have them herself.
If you know that you have a family history of fibroids, it is wise to get checked and pay attention to any symptoms that occur in your own body. You may be able to be diagnosed earlier, saving you from time spent dealing with painful symptoms.
Other risk factors
While not necessarily specific to African-American women, other risk factors for fibroids include obesity and eating habits. Overweight women are more likely to develop fibroids, and for very heavy women, the risk can be two or three times greater.
Along the same lines, a poor diet can lead to a greater possibility of fibroids as well. Eating green vegetables may help protect women from developing fibroids.
Up to 80% of African-American women may be affected by fibroids, and you could be one of them. For more information on the warning signs of uterine fibroids including symptoms and treatment options, visit our post How to Tell If You Have Uterine Fibroids.
PLEASE NOTE: The above information should not be construed as providing specific medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician.