breast cancer

Menopause hot flashes dramatically lower breast cancer risk

Friday, February 04, 2011 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: hot flashes, breast cancer, health news

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(NaturalNews) When women hit menopause, many have hot flashes, (also called hot flushes) and mainstream medicine is quick to prescribe treatments for this "ailment", including antidepressants and hormones. But what if there's a?healthy reason the body naturally reacts to menopause with hot flashes? Turns out, these feelings of heat, sometimes accompanied by sweating, dramatically reduce the risk of breast cancer.

According to a recent study by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer, women who have experienced hot flashes and other menopause symptoms appear to have a 50 percent lower risk of developing the most common forms of breast cancerthan postmenopausal women who have never had these change-of-life symptoms. In fact, the more frequent and intense the hot flashes, the lower the risk of breast cancer.

The results of this study, which is the first to examine the relationship between menopausal symptoms and breast cancer risk, were just published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention. "In particular we found that women who experienced more intense hot flushes -- the kind that woke them up at night -- had a particularly low risk of breast cancer," senior author Christopher I. Li, M.D., Ph.D., a breast cancer epidemiologist in the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division, said in a statement to the media.

Dr. Li and colleagues found an amazing 40 percent to 60 percent reduction in the risk of invasive ductal and invasive lobular carcinoma (the two most common types of breast cancer) among women who experienced hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. The association between these symptoms and a lowered cancer risk wasn't altered even after the researchers accounted for other factors known to raise the risk of breast malignancies, such as obesity and taking hormone replacement therapy.

The study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute, involved 1,437 postmenopausal women from the Seattle area; 988 of these research participants had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer and 449 women who had no history of breast cancer served as a comparison group. The women were surveyed about perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, vaginal dryness, irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding, and anxiety.

"While menopausal symptoms can certainly have a negative impact on quality of life, our study suggests that there may be a silver lining if the reduction in breast cancer risk is confirmed in future studies," Dr. Li said. "If these findings are confirmed, they have the potential to improve our understanding of the causes of breast cancer and improve approaches to preventing this disease."

Dr. Li and his colleagues hypothesized that because menopausal symptoms occur as hormone levels fluctuate and drop, women who experience more frequent and severe symptoms might have a lower risk of breast cancer due to decreased estrogen levels. The study also indirectly raises another intriguing possibility: it suggests the possibility that hot flashes, sweating and other menopausal symptoms may actually be beneficial to the female body and perhaps even help block the development of breast cancer in some way.

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