Why Are Fibroids More Common In Black Women?

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This is one question that I personally would like an answer to, as I’m at risk of developing fibroids, considering my mom had it.

It was during one of my mom’s episodes with fibroids that I called up a family friend of mine, who is a Gynaecologist. I shared with him the situation with my mom, and the amount of pain she was dealing with on a monthly basis, as well as the impact on her general lifestyle, never mind how it affected us her children.

I spent quite a long time on the phone with him, trying to find answers and solutions too. Every single time I asked this question, the answer was the same; science hasn’t been able to find out. I cannot tell you the frustration that it causes, but I always look to the bright side; the solutions.

This February will make it two years that my mom had her partial hysterectomy, which has literally given her a new lease on life, and us, a sigh of relief. However, my question still remains unanswered.

It is no longer a straight “science doesn’t know” answer. There is beginning to be some flickering of hope in that darkness.

My mom is older, and falls right into the category of African women whom science says would have fibroids, but Saidat is just 39 years old. She was diagnosed of fibroids when she was just 30 years old, after two ectopic miscarriages.

They were small seedlings which had taken up residence right inside her uterus, stifling the space for any embryo to implant.

Thanks to her proactive nature and that the situation was caught on time, Saidat is now a mother of two children, whom she conceived via assisted reproductive technique, after having a fibroid removal surgery (myomectomy).

She recently learnt that the fibroids are back, but she seems unfazed, believing that if and when she decides to try for another baby, fibroids would not stand in her way.

Uterine fibroids, also known as uterine leiomyomata, are benign tumours that grow on the walls of the uterus of an affected woman. It is most common in women of African descent and in women who have not given birth, between the ages of 30 and 45 years old.

A doctor even says once an African woman is over the age of 20, there is a high possibility that she already has fibroids. And his claim has been supported by many young ladies who have been diagnosed with fibroids in their 20s.

Fibroids may present as tiny seedlings or as be as large as a watermelon (that was my mom’s size, one large heavy mass).

Considering this is a condition that affects such a large chunk of a whole race, one would think science would have done much, but what little they have done, we will look at in this piece.

Early this year, I came across a study which claimed that hair straightening chemicals, which lots of African women use, may be linked to fibroids. I was like that’s a good reason to become a naturalista… don’t you think?

The study, which was led by Dr. Lauren Wise of Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center, tracked the lives of more than 23,000 pre-menopausal Black American women from 1997 to 2009.

The study points out that a significant majority of African-American women, who were diagnosed with uterine fibroids also admitted to using chemical relaxer treatments on their hair at some point.

It wasn’t exactly a cause-effect relationship, but it was a link that was too obvious to be dismissed. It’s technically a dead end but a new discovery all the same.

Another news that flittered across my screen involved children and their fibroids risk.  Do you know see why it’s important to pay attention to this fibroids business? It affects not only us, but our children are also at risk.

The researchers found that women who got their first menstrual period before the age of 10 were also more likely to have uterine fibroids. Why?

No answer yet, and that is irritating.

And to the latest study and the motivation for this piece; it has been discovered that a particular hair loss pattern common to women of African descent may put them at risk of developing uterine fibroids.

In fact, the researchers are urging doctors to tell women with that type of hair loss to undergo screening, particularly if they have symptoms such as heavy bleeding and pain. Anyways, that is in America oh, where they go to doctors because of hair loss.  Here you find creams and other products to stimulate your scalp to grow more hair.

The highlighted hair loss is called central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA).

Again, the study published in JAMA Dermatology, did not suggest a cause-and-effect relationship between the two conditions or prove a common cause.

“The cause of the link between the two conditions remains unclear,” says Crystal Ugochi Aguh, the leading professor of the study at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

CCCA  which means hair loss at the top of the head that spreads and leaves scarring, after which the hair never grows back is reportedly predominantly affects black women and is their most common form of permanent hair loss. The scarring in CCCA is similar to that associated with excess fibrous tissue elsewhere in the body, which may explain why women with this type of hair loss are at a higher risk for fibroids, Aguh says.

Aguh and colleagues analyzed data from the Johns Hopkins electronic medical record system on 487,104 black women ages 18 and over. They found that 13.9 percent of women with CCCA also had a history of uterine fibroids, compared to only 3.3 percent of black women without the condition. They found a fivefold increased risk for uterine fibroids in women with CCCA, compared to age-, sex-, and race-matched controls.

The association was strong enough for Aguh and her team to recommend that physicians and patients be made aware of it. Women with CCCA should be screened not only for fibroids, but also for other disorders associated with excess fibrous tissue, she says.

When all is said and done, Black women still have fibroids more than any other race, they present for treatment later than any other race, and no one still knows why we have fibroids.

Woman holding head looking down at tablet

But then, studies have revealed that, compared to women of other colours, Caucasian especially, black women were likely to have less income, were overwhelmingly single and led a lifestyle that was a lot more stressful. This particular study, along with other studies along the same lines, showcased that social conditions were a part of why African-American women developed fibroids at an outsized rate.

Basically, the stress that came from the lower quality of life of Black women experienced created conditions in which fibroids were more likely to occur.

There is also the genetic factor, which no one has been able to explain.  

So, I really don’t need a crystal ball to tell me I will have fibroids. It is a matter of when will the symptoms start to show?

And I get to wonder that for her girls too. It’s sad, but like Saidat, I’m not going to let it get me down. I will be looking for ways to make the most of a sad situation at least until science provides conclusive answers.

Meanwhile, there is no harm in making healthier choices in life.

 

 

 

Photo credits:

1. http://pridenews.ca/

2. https://www.thebeautilab.com/

3. https://guardian.ng/

4. https://escholarship.org/

5. http://i.huffpost.com/

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