Treatment with vitamin D reduced the size of uterine fibroids in laboratory rats predisposed to developing the benign tumors, reported researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Uterine fibroids are the most common noncancerous tumors in women of childbearing age. 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. Other than surgical removal of the uterus, there are few treatment options for women experiencing severe fibroid-related symptoms and about 200,000 U.S. women undergo the procedure each year. A recent analysis by NIH scientists estimated that the economic cost of fibroids to the United States, in terms of health care expenses and lost productivity, may exceed $34 billion a year.
Fibroids are three to four times more common in African-American women than in white women. Moreover, African-American women are roughly 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.
First author Sunil K. Halder, Ph.D., of Meharry Medical College in Nashville conducted the research with Meharry colleagues Chakradhari Sharan, Ph.D., and Ayman Al-Hendy, M.D., Ph.D., and with Kevin G. Osteen, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, also in Nashville. The findings appear
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NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development