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Sunshine linked to a healthier uterus

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
If you want to keep your uterus healthy, it may mean a bit more sunshine.

Women who fail to get enough vitamin D and sunshine might be at higher risk for uterine fibroids, finds a new study.

Among women studied whose level of the vitamin was adequate, researchers found a 32 percent lower chance of developing the condition that affects 3 out of 4 women.

Spending more time in the sun was linked to an even lower chance of fibroids.

Fibroid tumors that develop in the uterus during childbearing years are non-cancerous. But for some women, the growths can cause heavy menstruation, pelvic pain and pressure, constipation, trouble urinating completely and painful intercourse.

Fibroids of the uterus can cause substantial bleeding and are a leading cause of hysterectomy.

For other women, there are no symptoms. Many women don't know they have the growths until they are discovered on a routine pelvic exam. Doctors are not sure what causes the tumors.

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Could sunshine a simple intervention for uterine fiboids?

Donna Baird, Ph.D., a researcher at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and collaborators at The George Washington University and the Medical University of South Carolina screened 1,036 women, aged 35-49 for uterine fibroids using ultrasound. They also tested the women's vitamin D status, using a value of 20 nanograms per milliliter of 25-hydroxy D as sufficient, though opinions vary about adequate amounts needed for optimal health.

The researchers also gathered information about how much time the women spent in the sun. Participants in the study who spent more than one hour a day outdoors had a 40 percent lower chance of uterine fibroids.

Baird says the finding is consistent with laboratory studies, but should be replicated to find out if getting some sunshine really could be an inexpensive and simple way to prevent uterine fibroids.

Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program said the study supports a growing body of evidence showing the benefits of vitamin D.


Image credit: Morguefile