Vitamin D shrinks fibroid tumors in rats
An NIH-funded study in rats suggests there may be an easy, available treatment for a common condition in women of childbearing age.
Balintfy: Uterine fibroids are the most common noncancerous tumors in women of childbearing age.
De Paolo: They are benign tumors of the uterus, specifically the wall of the uterus. And they can be in inside the uterus, outside the uterus, but they are somehow connected to the uterine wall.
Balintfy: Dr. Louis De Paolo is chief of the Reproductive Sciences Branch at the NIH institute dealing with reproductive biology and developmental health. He explains that fibroids are associated with infertility, and that 30-percent of women 25-44 years old report fibroid-related symptoms.
De Paolo: There can be several types of symptoms. The most common is low back pain, vaginal bleeding, and painful menstrual periods. It can also be associated with infertility at times and as well as pregnancy complications.
Balintfy: Other than surgical removal of the uterus, called a hysterectomy, there are few treatment options for women experiencing severe fibroid-related symptoms. About 200,000 U.S. women have a hysterectomy each year.
De Paolo: And of course once that happens, the woman is basically sterile.
Balintfy: Now, a recent study in rats has shown that treatment with vitamin D reduces the size of fibroids.
De Paolo: In the animals that got the vitamin D, the tumor size was reduced by 75%.
Balintfy: The amount of vitamin D that the rats received each day was equivalent to a human dose of roughly 1,400 international units. The recommended amount of vitamin D for teens and adults age 70 and under is 600 units daily, although up to 4,000 units is considered safe for children over age 9, adults, and for pregnant and breastfeeding females. But Dr. De Paolo warns that this study is just the beginning.
De Paolo: Well, first of all, this work is on an animal model.
Balintfy: He explains that more study must be done to show effectiveness and safety in humans. But adds that there is enthusiasm because vitamin D is so widely available.
De Paolo: I think the real importance of this is the possibility that there could be a nonsurgical option for fibroids, a fertility sparing option. Remember that currently the only option to completely ameliorate the condition is hysterectomy.
Balintfy: For more on the promise of vitamin D as a treatment for fibroids, visit www.nichd.nih.gov. And for more from Dr. De Paolo, listen to episode 155 of the NIH Research Radio podcast. For NIH Radio, this is Joe Balintfy— NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®