Smoggy Air Might Raise Black Women’s Odds for Fibroids

By Denise Mann
HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY May 18, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Exposure to ozone air pollution may make black women more likely to develop fibroids.

Compared to women exposed to the lowest levels of the pollutant, black women exposed to the highest levels had a 35% increased risk of developing non-cancerous growths in and around their uterus. The link was even stronger among women under 35 and those who had given birth.

It is not fully understood how, or even if, exposure to ozone pollution affects the development of fibroids.

“[But] we know that air pollution causes inflammation and an immune response, which are linked to fibroids, ”said study author Amelia Wesselink, assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health.

The study – published in the May issue of the journal Human reproduction – adds to a small but growing literature that alludes to a link between air pollution and fibroids. He is the first to show such a link in black women, who are known to be disproportionately affected by fibroids, Wesselink said.


Researchers studied three air pollutants in 56 US cities between 1997 and 2011 – particles smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone.

The study included nearly 22,000 premenopausal black women in those cities who were part of an ongoing health study. The women answered the questionnaires every two years and were followed until 2019.

During the 14-year study period, almost 30% reported having a diagnosis of fibroids confirmed by ultrasound or surgery.

The risk of such self-reported fibroids increased with increasing ozone levels in the atmosphere, but this link was not seen with PM2.5 or NO2, the study showed.

The results were maintained even after the researchers controlled for other factors that could influence the results, including other air pollutants, economic status, access or quality of health care, and factors related to health. lifestyle linked to fibroid risk.

“It’s not clear why we haven’t seen an association with the other two pollutants,” Wesselink said. “There may be a mechanism specific to ozone that has yet to be discovered.”


For example, ozone is linked to the presence of sunlight, just like vitamin D, and vitamin D deficiency can be the cause of this link. The study did not measure exposure to vitamin D.

More research is needed to confirm the results, Wesselink said.

“Ideally, we would look at an entire population to measure the development of fibroids over time so that we don’t rely on a self-reported diagnosis,” she said. It would also catch women who have no symptoms.

Not all fibroids cause symptoms, but those that do can lead to a heavy or painful period, stomach and back pain, constipation, the need to urinate frequently, and pain or discomfort during intercourse. sexuality, according to Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Family history, hormone levels, and pregnancy are known to increase the chances of developing growths.

“Fibroids grow in response to hormones and tend to shrink during menopause, when hormone levels drop,” said Wu, who was not involved in the research.


“Pollution can be a contributing factor to the development of fibroids in some women,” she said. The good news is that there are many treatments for fibroids that cause bothersome symptoms, including medications and minimally invasive procedures.

Dr Marianthi Kioumourtzoglou, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, called the study “a very important study.”

She said there was little research on how environmental exposures affect this aspect of women’s health.

Air pollution has been linked to lung, heart and brain disease, mood disorders, and pregnancy and childbirth-related outcomes, said Kioumourtzoglou, who reviewed the new findings.

In addition to relocating, which is not feasible for most people, it can be difficult to reduce exposure to ozone and other sources of air pollution, she said.

“The masks really help,” she added.

More information

Learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of fibroids at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

SOURCES: Amelia Wesselink, PhD, assistant professor, epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health; Jennifer Wu, MD, obstetrician / gynecologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, Assistant Professor, Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, New York; Human reproduction, May 2021

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