Maybe this is what our mom calls, a “blessing in disguise”? Women who have to endure hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms are less likely to develop breast cancer. According to researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, “women who ever experienced menopausal symptoms have a substantially reduced risk of breast cancer, and that severity of hot flushes is also inversely associated with risk.”
Says lead researcher and breast cancer epidemiologist Dr. Christoper Li, “We know that hormones are important to breast cancer risk, and we also know that menopausal symptoms occur primarily because of changes in hormones that women experience as they go through menopause.”
“If we can confirm this finding, it may be somewhat of a silver lining for women who experience menopausal symptoms, because they can often really reduce a woman’s quality of life,” he adds.
Dr. Li and his fellow researchers studied 1,437 postmenopausal women (988 of whom have breast cancer) who were asked about their menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness, irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding, depression and anxiety. They discovered that women with the most hot flashes are the least likely to have breast cancer.
Moreover, the risk of breast cancer among women with the most severe menopausal symptoms is reduced by 50% compared to women who reported no menopausal symptoms at all.
Says Dr. Li of their research findings: “These findings tell us more about what may cause or prevent breast cancer,” Li said. “We certainly wouldn’t go around inducing menopausal symptoms to reduce breast cancer risk. But if we can better understand the underlying biological mechanisms, that could help in developing prevention strategies.”
The research was published in the Jan. 26 online edition of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.
For more cancer-related stories, check out our post on whether breast implants are cancerous and this research study which concludes that exercise lowers the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.