Black women with fibroids have greater cancer risk

Earlier studies have shown that compared with white women, black women have two to three times the incidence of uterine fibroids. Now, a new study shows that having fibroids is associated with a 40 percent higher risk of endometrial cancer. (Credit: Alex Proimos/Flickr)

Black women with a history of uterine fibroids have a 40 percent higher risk of endometrial cancer, a new study shows.

Researchers found that the association between a history of uterine leiomyoma—or fibroids—and cancer was strongest for cancer diagnosed within two years of uterine fibroids being found. The results could be explained by greater surveillance of women with fibroids or misdiagnosis of cancer as uterine leiomyoma.

An association also was observed for cancer reported 10 or more years after fibroids were detected. The study appears in the journal Cancer Causes and Control.

Past studies have found that incidence rates for endometrial cancers have risen across all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, with the highest annual increase observed among non-Hispanic black women.

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Compared with white women, black women have two to three times the incidence of uterine fibroids, an earlier age at first diagnosis, and greater disease severity.

Because endometrial bleeding is a symptom of both fibroids and uterine cancer, it is possible that some cancers are initially misdiagnosed as fibroids, says lead researcher Lauren Wise, professor of epidemiology at Boston University.

That could help explain the study’s finding of a stronger association between fibroids and uterine cancer that is diagnosed at later stages (stage 2 or greater), the authors write.

It remains unclear whether there is a causal association between uterine fibroids and the incidence of endometrial cancer. Studies of genetic alterations in uterine fibroids have identified several distinct pathways of tumor development.

Source: Boston University