Can fibroids be prevented?

You know that uterine fibroids are a very common condition affecting millions of women everyday, but is there anything you can do to prevent them? The truth is, there isn’t really anything women can do to reduce their chances of developing uterine fibroids, mainly because researchers still aren’t exactly sure what causes them to develop. However, there is some evidence that regular exercise might be able to help prevent fibroids.

Hormones and fibroids

Although we don’t know the exact cause of uterine fibroids, there is evidence that certain hormones – estrogen and progesterone – contribute to the growth of fibroids. Evidence for this theory includes the fact that fibroid cells, according to the Mayo Clinic, contain more estrogen and progesterone receptors than normal uterine muscles do, meaning that both hormones contribute to uterine fibroids getting and staying bigger.

It’s also clear that fibroids tend to shrink once women hit menopause, which is also evidence of hormonal contributions to fibroids, as estrogen levels are known to decline during menopause.

Researchers have also considered the fact that women with fibroids might also have abnormalities in their blood vessels, but they’re not sure about this yet.

Does exercise help?

Some studies suggest that exercise can prevent fibroids. One study in particular from the National Institutes of Health suggests that three or more hours of vigorous exercise each week reduced participants’ risk of fibroids by up to 40%. Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006 proposed that exercise reduced the levels of estrogen and progesterone, thus reducing the growth of fibroids.

While there hasn’t been enough research to show that moderate-to-vigorous exercise prevents uterine fibroids, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t still get the recommended amount of exercise every week. You can still get a wide array of health benefits from exercise, and even if it doesn’t completely prevent fibroids, it still might help slow their growth.

Fibroids prevention: no bottom line

Until experts know more about how fibroids can be prevented, a healthy lifestyle and early diagnosis are the best ways to manage fibroids. Some research suggests that a diet high in green vegetables and fruit is associated with a lower risk for fibroids. Other studies indicate that vitamin D deficiency and beer consumption could contribute to fibroid growth. But it’s important to remember that uterine fibroids are only really a problem when they start to cause physical symptoms, like heavy periods, abdominal pressure, constipation, or pain during sex. If you haven’t noticed any of the typical symptoms associated with fibroids, you probably don’t need to worry about them.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Uterine fibroids: self-management.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Jul 6 2016. Web.
  • Harvard Women’s Health Watch. “What to do about fibroids.” HarvardHealthOnline. Harvard University, Jul 2008. Web.
  • Donna D. Baird. “What’s going on with the uterine fibroid study?” Pamphlet from National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Environmental Health Uterine Fibroids Study, Dec 2003. Web.
  • Donna Day Baird, David B. Dunson, Michael C. Hill, Deborah Cousins, and Joel M. Schectman. “Association of Physical Activity with Development of Uterine Leiomyoma.” American Journal of Epidemiology. 165(2)157-163. Web. Jun 5 2006.
  • F. Chiaffarino, et al. “Diet and uterine myomas.” Obstet Gynecol. 94(3):395-8. Web. Sep 1999.
  • LA Wise, et al. “Intake of fruit, vegetables, and carotenoids in relation to risk of uterine leiomyomata.” Am J Clin Nutr. 94(6):1620-31. Web. Dec 2011. 
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