Researchers from Meharry Medical College in Nashville report on February 1, 2012 in the journal Biology of Reproduction that treatment with vitamin D decreased uterine fibroid volume in rats bred to develop the tumors.
Fibroids are the most common benign tumor in women and although they often remain small and symptomless, they frequently grow to a significant size, causing pain and increased menstrual bleeding. Fibroid tumors are less common in Caucasian women than in African-Americans, who are also likelier to be deficient in vitamin D.
The current study utilized twelve rats that had developed fibroid tumors. Sunil K. Halder, PhD, and his associates implanted half of the animals with pumps designed to administer vitamin D3 at a rate of 0.5 micrograms per kilogram daily for three weeks—an amount equivalent to approximately 1,400 international units per day in humans. The remainder of the animals were administered an inert substance. At the end of the treatment period, the rats were examined for tumor size and possible signs of toxicity.
While tumors in the control group were found to have slightly grown, those in the vitamin-D treated rats were 75 percent smaller. Treated animals had reduced expression of a marker of cell proliferation as well as a decrease in hormone receptors.
"The study results provide a promising new lead in the search for a non-surgical treatment for fibroids that doesn't affect fertility," commented Louis De Paolo, PhD of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study.
"Additional research is needed to confirm vitamin D as a potential treatment for women with uterine fibroids," remarked coauthor Ayman Al-Hendy, MD, PhD. "But it is also an essential nutrient for the health of muscle, bone and the immune system, and it is important for everyone to receive an adequate amount of the vitamin."
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