African American women with alopecia have significantly higher odds of developing fibroids, based on data from more than 400,000 women.

In a study published in JAMA Dermatology , researchers reviewed data from 487,104 black women seen at a single center between Aug. 1, 2013, and Aug. 1, 2017. Overall, 14% of women with central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) also had a history of uterine fibroids, compared with 3% percent of black women without CCCA.

“Alopecia is more than just a cosmetic problem. … It could signal an increased risk of developing other conditions,” corresponding author Crystal Aguh, MD , of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said in an interview. “To our knowledge, this is the first time that an association has been noted between these two conditions. We believe that the fact that both are related to excess scarring and fibrous tissue deposition may reflect similarities in how both [conditions] develop, but this is still unknown.” 

Overall, 62 of 447 women who met criteria for CCCA also had fibroids, representing a nearly fivefold increase in fibroid risk for women with CCCA.

“I was definitely surprised by the findings,” said Dr. Aguh. “I thought it would be interesting to look at any possible correlation between the two diseases, but did not expect to see such a large difference between black women with and without this form of hair loss,” she noted.

As fibroids are often asymptomatic, “physicians should screen their patients with CCCA for symptoms of fibroids such as painful menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, unexplained anemia, or difficulty conceiving,” said Dr. Aguh. “In those patients who may not know they have fibroids, early recognition that allows for treatment will be especially beneficial.”

The findings were limited by the retrospective nature of the study. “I believe that larger studies are warranted to help us fully understand how these two conditions are connected,” Dr. Aguh said.

Lead author Yemisi Dina of Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn., is supported in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The other researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.

SOURCE: Dina Y et al. JAMA Dermatol. 2017 Dec 27. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.5163