Study shows treatment with Vitamin D shrinks fibroid tumours in rats
While the study was only conducted in rats, this National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded study strongly suggests that treatment with Vitamin D may dramatically reduce the size of uterine fibroids.
Uterine fibroids are the most common noncancerous tumours in women of childbearing age. Fibroids grow within and around the wall of the uterus. Thirty per cent of women aged 25 to 44 report fibroid-related symptoms, such as lower back pain, heavy vaginal bleeding and painful menstrual periods. Uterine fibroids also are associated with infertility and such pregnancy related complications as miscarriage or preterm labour.
Other than surgical removal of the uterus, there are few treatment options for women experiencing severe fibroid-related symptoms and about 200,000 US women undergo the procedure each year. A recent analysis by NIH scientists estimated that the economic cost of fibroids to the United States, in terms of health care expenses and lost productivity, may exceed $34 billion a year.
In this study, the researchers tested Vitamin D treatment on a strain of rats genetically predisposed to developing fibroid tumours. After examining the animals and confirming the presence of fibroids in 12 of them, the researchers divided the rats into two groups of six each-- those that would receive Vitamin D and those that would not.
In the first group, small pumps implanted under the skin delivered a continuous dose of Vitamin D for three weeks. The researchers then examined the animals in both groups. Fibroids increased in size in the untreated rats, but, in the rats receiving Vitamin D, the tumours had shrunk dramatically. On average, uterine fibroids in the group receiving Vitamin D were 75% smaller than those in the untreated group.
The amount of Vitamin D the rats received each day was equivalent to a human dose of roughly 1,400 IU a smaller dose that what many Vitamin D experts are now advocating.
"The study results provide a promising new lead in the search for a non-surgical treatment for fibroids that doesn't affect fertility," said Louis De Paolo, Ph.D., chief of the Reproductive Sciences Branch of the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded the study.
S. K. Halder, C. Sharan, A. Al-Hendy. 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 Treatment Shrinks Uterine Leiomyoma Tumors in the Eker Rat Model. Biology of Reproduction, 2012; DOI: 10.1095/biolreprod.111.098145