Fibroid tumors are 2 to 3 times more common in African-American women than other American women, tend to be larger, more numerous, more symptomatic, and black women get them at an earlier age. Fibroids can cause or contribute to pelvic pain, heavy bleeding, infertility, and miscarriages, and are the leading cause of hysterectomies for black women who have a threefold higher risk for hysterectomies compared with white women.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Services is conducting a fibroid growth study, funded jointly by the Institute and the National Center for Research on Minority Health and Health Disparities, to investigate why some fibroids grow and cause symptoms while others do not.
Studies done to date have not made definitive links to causes or patterns of fibroid development, but Howell has said there are interesting correlations that merit further study.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, reported that women with higher glycemic index levels had an increased risk for fibroids. Sugary drinks, pastries, white bread and white rice all have high glycemic indices that can lead to blood sugar spikes and higher insulin levels, which are linked to other hormones believed to encourage the fibroid growth.
That study also said there was evidence that women who eat a lot of beef, ham and other red meats may be at a higher risk of fibroids, while diets rich in fish, green vegetables and fruit appear to decrease the risk. Women who ate two servings of fruit each day were less likely to have fibroids. The study said antioxidants in the fruit may reduce the risk.
Another study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology of over 22,000 black women who consumed milk, cheese, ice cream, or other dairy products at least once a day were less likely to develop fibroids than those who consumed dairy more frequently.