A new study in the journal Epidemiology found that getting sufficient vitamin D is associated with a reduced risk of uterine fibroids, which are benign tumors of the uterus. While uterine fibroids (also known as leiomyomas) seldom lead to life-threatening cancer, they can cause discomfort, trigger lower back pain, cause bleeding, and affect fertility. Fibroids are the leading cause for getting a hysterectomy in the United States.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Science Uterine Fibroid Study enrolled over 1000 women between the ages of 35 and 49. After assessing their vitamin D levels, they found that only 10% of black women and 50% of white women had sufficient vitamin D levels, which is anything above 20 nanograms per milliliter in your blood. When they compared these vitamin D levels with their risk for fibroids, they found that women who had sufficient vitamin D had an estimated 32% lower risk of getting fibroids compared to those who were vitamin D deficient. Why? Researchers say an active metabolite of vitamin D inhibits the growth of fibroid cells and even helps to reduce their volume.
Uterine fibroids are the most common pelvic tumor in women; they are most common in women in their 30s and 40s. Because most fibroids are small and produce no symptoms, they are often missed by doctors. Therefore, it’s hard to determine how many women have fibroids and don’t even know it. One study on women, post-hysterectomy, found that 7 out of 10 women may have fibroids.
Having fewer fibroids isn’t the only benefit of sufficient vitamin D. Having low levels of vitamin D has been linked with recurrent vaginal infections during pregnancy and a higher risk of developing premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
So how much vitamin D do you need? For all ages, the Institute of Medicine recommends getting between 600 and 800 IU per day. Dr. Oz recommends 1000 IU. To find out if you are deficient, you doctor can order a a simple blood test. If you are deficient, your doctor may recommend more than the standard daily recommendation depending on how deficient you are.
You can also choose foods that are great natural sources of vitamin D, which include salmon, tuna, and cereal and milk, which are generally fortified with vitamin D. One of the best ways to get vitamin D is to spend about 10-15 minutes a day outside in the sun. Those with darker skin tones may want to spend about two to three times longer than that in the sun. Keep in mind that wearing sunscreen will make it harder for your skin to make enough vitamin D. In the summertime, an easy solution is skipping sunscreen on your legs for the first 15 minutes in the sun. Just make sure you apply in time to prevent any burns or damage. Learn more about vitamin D.