Are Fibroids Hereditary?
Up to 80% of women will have a fibroid by age 50.1 For many women, these fibroids will be small and have a nominal impact on quality-of-life, but for others, fibroids can wreak havoc on your social, mental and emotional well-being. For women who struggle with large or painful fibroids, the cause of these growths is often the first question that comes to mind. This begs the question – are fibroids hereditary? The answer is yes, in part – but that’s not necessarily why you might develop them.
Genetics Play a Role
Many fibroids contain changes in genes that differ from those in normal uterine muscle cells.2 In a 2012 study published in The American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital analyzed genetic data from over 7,000 women and detected genetic variants that are significantly associated with uterine fibroids. One of these genes was FASN, which encodes a protein called FAS (fatty acid synthase). This FAS protein expression was found to be three times higher in uterine fibroid samples when compared to normal uterine tissue. Over-expression of FAS protein is also found in various types of other tumors and is thought to be important for tumor cell survival.3
So what does this mean? Well for one thing, research findings lead physicians to believe there is a genetic component to your susceptibility when it comes to developing fibroids. In fact, having a family member with fibroids increases your risk – if your mother had fibroids, your risk of also experiencing them is roughly three times higher than your friend that doesn’t have fibroids in her family.1
But Genes aren’t Everything
However, just because your mom or your sister had fibroids doesn’t necessarily mean you will too. Just as relevant to fibroid development are hormone levels. Both estrogen and progesterone levels directly affect fibroid development, which is why pregnant women often experience sudden fibroid growth.1
What are other risk factors? Eating lots of red meat and being overweight has been linked to uterine fibroids, so here’s just one more reason to ensure you get your fruits and vegetables in. Additionally, African American women are considerably more likely to develop large and painful fibroids than any other racial group.1
If fibroids run in your family and you have concerns that you may be developing some of your own, make an appointment with your gynecologist to discuss whether you may be at risk. To learn more about fibroids and the impact they could be having on your life, visit our blog.
- “Uterine fibroids Fact Sheet.” Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed July 31, 2018. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/uterine-fibroids
- “Uterine Fibroids.” Mayo Clinic. Accessed July 31, 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/symptoms-causes/syc-20354288
- Stacey L. Eggert, Karen L. Huyck. Genome-wide Linkage and Association Analyses Implicate FASN in Predisposition to Uterine Leiomyomata. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 2012; 91 (4): 621 DOI: 1016/j.ajhg.2012.08.009