Uterine fibroid tumors affect as many as 80 percent of women during their lifetime, reports the Cleveland Clinic. Scientists do not know what causes fibroids to develop or which factors contribute to a woman’s risk for them. Researchers continue to work to understand how vitamins and a diet high in fruits and vegetables may affect the risk for and development of uterine fibroid tumors.
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Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that develop in smooth uterine muscle cells. The most recognized and understood risk factor for developing a fibroid tumor is being a woman of reproductive age. The risk of developing fibroids increases with age up to the onset of menopause; after that existing tumors tend to shrink. African-American women develop fibroids more frequently than Caucasian women, although it is unknown why. The composition of fibroids differs from that of normal, healthy uterine tissue. Fibroids contain excess amounts of specialized proteins called extracellular matrix proteins, which provide structure and biochemical support to cells and may be regulated by specific vitamins.
You get vitamin D through diet and through sun exposure. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon and tuna and fortified milk. The sun's ultraviolet rays trigger vitamin D production in your skin. Many factors, however, affect this process, including the darkness of your skin tone, the presence of cloud cover or pollution, wearing sunscreen at or above SPF 8, and the time of year. Females 14 through 50 years of age need 600 international units of vitamin D a day. A 2013 research study published in Epidemiology revealed that adequate serum vitamin D is associated with a reduced risk of developing fibroids. Vitamin D is not currently used to prevent or treat fibroid tumors, however. Discuss any concerns about your vitamin D status with your health care provider.
Vitamin A from animal-derived sources such as dairy products and eggs may be associated with a reduced risk of developing fibroids. The recommended intake of vitamin A for females 14 through 50 years of age is 700 micrograms of retinol activity equivalents per day. Vitamin A regulates how cells grow, progress through their life cycle, communicate and die. Fibroid tumor cells grown and maintained in a lab functioned more normally after they were treated with retinoid acid, the biologically active form of vitamin A. Fibroid tissue samples may not contain the same quantity and type of vitamin A proteins as healthy tissue. This may influence which genes do and do not get transcribed. Like vitamin D, vitamin A is not currently used to prevent or treat fibroid tumors. Synthetic forms of vitamin A taken during pregnancy can cause birth defects, so if you're pregnant, follow your obstetrician's advice regarding prenatal vitamins.
Fruits and Vegetables
A study published in 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linked a diet low in fruits and vegetables with an increased risk of developing fibroids. Additionally, women who consumed more citrus fruits -- oranges and grapefruits -- were less likely to develop fibroids, and the authors suggested a plant chemical in citrus fruits, most likely a flavonoid, may be involved. No associations were detected between the development of fibroids and vitamins C, E, folate or dietary fiber. Increasing fruits and vegetables in the diet is an overall healthful choice, but evidence does not currently support this as an effective approach to reduce the risk of developing fibroid tumors.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Cleveland Clinic: Uterine Fibroids
- International Journal of Women’s Health: Uterine Fibroids: Current Perspectives
- Epidemiology: Vitamin D and the Risk of Uterine Fibroids
- Biology of Reproduction: 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 Reduces Extra Cellular Matrix-Associated Protein Expression in Human Uterine Fibroid Cells
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Intake of Fruit, Vegetables, and Carotenoids in Relation to Risk of Uterine Leiomyomata
- Fertility and Sterility: All-trans Retinoic Acid Mediates Changes in PI3K and Retinoic Acid Signaling Proteins of Leiomyomas
- Fertility and Sterility: Uterine Leiomyomas Express a Molecular Pattern that Lowers Retinoic Acid Exposure
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin A Fact Sheet for Health Professionals
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Consumers
- MedlinePlus: Uterine Fibroids