If you are one of those women who are going through the menopause and experiencing the debilitating symptoms of hot flushes, insomnia and mood changes, to name a few, then there may be some good news. A study, financed by the National Cancer Institute, has indicated that those who have had the most severe symptoms could face a reduced risk for breast cancer later on in life. In fact, women who had the most severe hot flushes, the kind that woke them up at night and left them drenched in sweat or embarrassed at the lunch time restaurant, had the lowest risk for postmenopausal breast cancer, the study reported.
The research, which was carried out at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and subsequently published in the published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, stress that their findings are only preliminary and far from certain. Moreover, senior author, Dr Christopher Li said, “This is the first study to look at this, We tried to do the best we could. We want to see a replication of the results to see if they hold up before we can make any strong inferences.” He did state however, “it’s a fairly robust finding.” And looking at the results the reduction in risk was significant. Compared with women who had never experienced menopausal symptoms, those who had symptoms had only half the risk of developing the most common type of breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma. The same was true for the risk for developing invasive lobular cancer. And those same women were also less likely to develop another type of breast cancer, invasive ductal-lobular carcinoma, though that may have been a chance finding.
The research took place in the Seattle area and involved taking interviews with 1,437 postmenopausal women, which included 988 women who had confirmed breast cancer and, for comparison, 449 who were cancer-free. There was a distinct association made between menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms and reduced cancer risk, despite other factors that increase cancer risk, like hormone replacement therapy and obesity being ruled out. Not all scientists agree with these finding however. Dr. Steven R. Goldstein, who is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University Langone Medical Center and president of the North American Menopause Society, reminded that this was a case-controlled study and as such was likely to have weaknesses. He did admit that the results could be used to shed light on the role that hormones like estrogen and progesterone play in the development of breast cancer. Dr Goldstein went on to explain that, “estrogen deprivation causes hot flashes, and the lower your estrogen, the less likely you are to have breast cancer.”
Although these findings are somewhat of a relief for menopausal women who are suffering from extreme symptoms, the results are not a ‘cure’ for reducing breast cancer. “It’s not like there’s a treatment” for high hormone levels, Dr. Goldstein said. “It’s not like it’s related to obesity and we can say, ‘Hey, lose weight.’ And there is nothing we can do to make women have more hot flashes.” This initial report does not mean that women who had a difficult menopause should skip their regular mammograms. Breast cancer risk increases with age, and older women should continue to get screened.
One product that can help with hot flushes is:
Black Cohosh – popular name ‘Snakeroot’, is a shrub-like plant native to the eastern deciduous forests of North America. Cohosh an Indian word meaning ‘rough’ refers to its gnarly root structure. Black Cohosh has been shown to be effective in helping to treat a variety of gynaecological symptoms, including hot flushes, nervous tension and pre-menstrual syndrome. Native Americans valued the herb and used it for many conditions ranging from gynaecological problems to snake bites.