What are fibroids?
Uterine fibroids (leiomyomata) are noncancerous growths that develop in or just outside a woman’s uterus (womb). Uterine fibroids develop from normal uterus muscle cells that start growing abnormally. As the cells grow, they form a benign tumor.
Who Gets Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are extremely common. In fact, many women have uterine fibroids at some point in life. Uterine fibroids in most women are usually too small to cause any problems, or even be noticed.
No one knows what causes uterine fibroids, but their growth seems to depend on estrogen, the female hormone. Uterine fibroids don’t develop until after puberty, and usually after age 30. Uterine fibroids tend to shrink or disappear after menopause, when estrogen levels fall.
African-American women tend to get uterine fibroids two to three times as often as white women, and also tend to have more symptoms from uterine fibroids.
Other factors may influence development of uterine fibroids:
Pregnancy: Women who have had children are less likely to get fibroids.
Early menstruation: Women whose first period was before age 10 are more likely to have uterine fibroids.
Women taking birth control pills are less likely to develop significant uterine fibroids.
Family history: Women whose mothers and sisters have uterine fibroids are more likely to have them.
Types of Uterine Fibroids
All uterine fibroids are similar in their makeup: All are made of abnormal uterine muscle cells growing in a tight bundle or mass.
Uterine fibroids are sometimes classified by where they grow in the uterus:
Myometrial (intramural) fibroids are in the muscular wall of the uterus.
Submucosal fibroids grow just under the interior surface of the uterus, and may protrude into the uterus.
Subserosal fibroids grow on the outside wall of the uterus.
Pedunculated fibroids usually grow outside of the uterus, attached to the uterus by a base or stalk.
Uterine fibroids can range in size, from microscopic to several inches across and weighing tens of pounds.
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
Most often, uterine fibroids cause no symptoms at all — so most women don’t realize they have them. When women do experience symptoms from uterine fibroids, they can include:
Prolonged menstrual periods (7 days or longer)
Heavy bleeding during periods
Bloating or fullness in the belly or pelvis
Pain in the lower belly or pelvis
Pain with intercourse
Some experts believe that some uterine fibroids can occasionally interfere with fertility and pregnancy. Although it’s rare, a uterine fibroid projecting into the uterus might either block an embryo from implanting there, or cause problems with the pregnancy later.
Fibroids and Relaxers
Carol Hogue, a professor of epidemiology at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health – says the link between fibroids and hair relaxers is not very strong.
Hogue says “there is an impact, it is very small,”
Hogue says the Boston University study was well done, following 23,000 women, but, “When they examine the difference between women of African ancestry, and women of more European ancestry, the hair relaxer association practically disappears.”
So, for now, Hogue says there’s no smoking gun, “But uterine fibroids are a big problem among African-American women.” She believes women should pay attention to Vitamin D deficiency, weight and lack ofexercise.
In fact, according to the CDC, 42 percent of Black women are overweight. A few years back, researchers questioned women working at Grady Hospital – about the challenges to being active.
Dr. Hogue says, “One of the biggest barriers they felt, to doing the exercise they wanted to do, was concern about how to get their hair back in place, perspiration, etc.”
One of the leading hair care manufacturers trade associations is reacting to the study. In a statement to FOX 5, The American Health and Beauty Aids Institute says, “Based on our industry information, we have not seen or received any reports of a link to relaxers and uterine fibroids.
Extensive research is conducted in product development to ensure these products are safe with the best results obtained by utilizing licensed salon professionals for hair care services. I believe the chance for any link to perms and uterine fibroids (if any) is so slim, there is little need for concern,” Geri Duncan Jones, Executive Director, American Health & Beauty Aids Institute (AHBAI).