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How Fibroids Increase Risk for Breast Cancer

September 29,2023

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s crucial for women to be well-informed about the risk factors and signs of breast cancer. If you’re dealing with fibroids, you might wonder about the potential link between these non-cancerous tumors and breast cancer.

Recent Research

Recent research published in the Journal of Gynecological Oncology sheds light on this connection. Using the National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan, researchers compared 22,001 women recently diagnosed with fibroids to 85,356 women without fibroids. The study revealed that women with a history of fibroids had a 35 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer when compared to those without uterine fibroids. However, these women were significantly less likely to have fatal outcomes.   

Fibroids and Breast Cancer Correlation 

While uterine fibroids and breast cancer are distinct conditions, they share a few factors, underscoring the need to understand and recognize symptoms associated with both.

  • Fibroids. Uterine fibroids, medically known as leiomyomas, are the most common benign (non-cancerous) tumors of the female reproductive system. Fibroids typically develop in women of reproductive age. These tumors grow both within and outside the wall of the uterus. 
  • Breast Cancer. Defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), breast cancer occurs when cells multiply uncontrollably in the body.

Fibroid Risk Factors 

Although the exact reasons for the cause of fibroid growth are still unknown, an excess of estrogen plays a pivotal role in their development.  

Estrogen Sensitivity: Fibroids are notably sensitive to estrogen. Early menstruation (before 11) increases the likelihood of fibroid development.

  • Genetics: Genetic predisposition, particularly a family history of fibroids, elevates the risk.
  • Ethnicity: Women of African American backgrounds are statistically more prone to developing fibroids.

Breast Cancer Risks 

A woman’s risk of breast cancer is linked to the levels of estrogen and progesterone her body produces.

  • Estrogen Exposure: Prolonged exposure to high estrogen levels increases the risk of estrogen-positive breast cancer, the most prevalent type.
  • Age Factor: The risk of breast cancer escalates with age.
  • Reproductive History: Early onset of menstruation and late menopause expose women to hormones for a longer duration.

Estrogen and Lifestyle Factors

Genetic, environmental, and lifestyle elements can influence uterine fibroids and estrogen-positive breast cancer.

  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Overconsumption of alcohol impedes estrogen metabolism.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) and Obesity: Post-menopause, increased body fat can lead to heightened estrogen levels as fat tissue produces estrogen.
  • Medications: Hormone medications can boost estrogen levels.
  • Genetics and Environmental Factors: Genetic predisposition and exposure to environmental chemicals, like synthetic xenoestrogens, can increase estrogen levels.
  • Lack of Physical Activity: Research demonstrates that regular physical activity can lower circulating estrogen levels

Fibroid and Breast Cancer Symptoms 

Fibroid symptoms, according to USA Fibroid Centers, depend on the size and location of the fibroids within the uterus and how close they are to various organs. The most common signs of fibroids are:  

  • Heavy, prolonged bleeding 
  • Pressure on the bladder causes urinary urgency 
  • Pelvic pain – either constant, dull aches or shooting pains 
  • Painful sex 
  • Constipation 
  • Abdominal bloating 
  • Not able to conceive, or miscarriage 
  • Anemia, causing fatigue 

Breast cancer produces different symptoms in different people. The most common signs are: 

  • An unknown mass in the breast or armpit. 
  • Pain in the area around the nipple. 
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast. 
  • Changes to skin color or texture such as redness or irritated skin. 

Are you experiencing one or more of the above symptoms?

How Can You Reduce Your Risks?

It is crucial to be vigilant and proactive when managing breast cancer and fibroid symptoms.

  • Consulting a Healthcare Professional: If you experience fibroid symptoms, consult your doctor. Specialized fibroid diagnostics, like image-guided ultrasounds and MRIs, can provide an accurate diagnosis.
  • Planning and Exploring Treatment Options: Based on the diagnosis, plan your fibroid management and explore treatment options.
  • Learn more about uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a nonsurgical and minimally invasive procedure.
  • Regular Screenings and Self-Exams: Like uterine fibroids, regular breast self-exams, mammograms, and doctor visits are indispensable for the early detection of breast cancer.

Join the Fibroid Fighters

Fibroid Fighters is committed to raising awareness about fibroids and educating women about their treatment options. For the latest information about fibroids, subscribe to our newsletter here.

If you are experiencing symptoms and need assistance managing fibroid disease, contact us at  [email protected] or call 855.455-5262. 

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info 
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6247381/ 

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