African American women are at a higher risk of developing uterine fibroids than white women. In fact, African American women have about three times the risk of developing fibroids as compared to white women. What is causing this difference? And how can we use this information to help reduce prevalence rates?
Fibroid tumors are noncancerous growths within the uterus. These growths can range in size as small as a pea to as large as a watermelon. Not all fibroids are symptomatic, but for those that are, women can experience heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding in between menstrual cycles, longer than normal menstrual cycles, back pain, pelvic cramping, among others.
The statistics surrounding black women and fibroids are not good. In collaboration with Hologic, The Black Women’s Health Imperative authored a whitepaper titled, Unmuting Fibroids: Meaningful Action Toward Equity for Black Women. Within this whitepaper, it was cited that 80% of Black women will develop uterine fibroids by age 50, three times the rate of other racial groups. However, most Black women will experience fibroids much earlier than age 50, with 74% of Black women reporting fibroid tumors by their 30’s compared to only 31% of white women in that age bracket.
Furthermore, Black women often have an increased severity of symptoms, and are more than two times as likely to undergo a hysterectomy and seven times more likely to undergo a myomectomy!
There is still no conclusion as to exactly what causes this disparity, however researchers have identified some possible associations and influencing factors. They are as follows:
A genetic component
Association to Hypertension
Possible environmental factors such as chronic stress
The above can all be associated factors for women of other racial groups as well. Because there isn’t anything very conclusive as to why Black women suffer more prevalently and severely, it is evident that more research is needed.
Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project, began to experience symptoms associated with fibroids as young as age 14. She had 27 fibroids removed! She is using her story to bring awareness of fibroids through the development of The White Dress Project.
Similarly, Sateria Venable, founder of the Fibroid Foundation, sought to bring awareness and generate funding for research to prevent other women from experiencing what she has had to go through, being diagnosed with fibroids at age 26.
Both referenced groups listed above have been champions in getting legislation proposed for additional funding for research. Recently, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Capito (R-WV) introduced a Senate companion bill called the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act of 2021. This legislation would provide $30 million to the National Institute of Health for fiscal years 2022 through 2026, establishing a research database for treatment of fibroids. Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) introduced the legislation to the House in March 2021. It’s a start to hopefully gaining more answers.
Are you suffering from symptoms you feel may be related to fibroid tumors? I encourage you to schedule an appointment today so that we can help determine the best treatment for your individual needs.