Menopause flushes reduces breast cancer risk
Women who suffer hot flushes during the menopause are half as likely to develop breast cancer.
Prior studies indicate that women with menopausal symptoms have lower oestrogen levels. The menopause occurs when ovaries stop producing the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone, usually when a woman is in her early 50s. The most frequent symptoms are hot flushes and sweating attacks. These can occur dozens of times daily, lasting for up to six minutes. Other common signs of the menopause include depression, mood swings, tiredness and headaches.
Given the central role of hormones in the development of breast cancer, a link between menopausal symptoms and breast cancer is possible. However, no prior studies have evaluated the association between menopausal symptoms and breast cancer risk. To investigate this, researchers surveyed 2,000 women from UK aged between 55 and 74 years.
It was found that women prone to several hot flushes have up to 40 per cent less oestradiol, a form of oestrogen. Women with hot flushes were found to have substantially reduced risk of breast cancer and the worse the bouts of perspiration, the lower the chances of developing the commonest forms of breast cancer. Risks were lower among women who experienced hot flushes with perspiration or awakening, compared to hot flushes alone.
A plausible explanation is that menopausal symptoms are a marker for hormonal changes relevant to the development of breast cancer. Sweating attacks are caused by a lack of the hormone oestrogen but the shortfall may also cut the risks of getting tumours. Overall, a link between menopausal symptoms and the risk of breast cancer appears plausible, but larger prospective studies are needed to confirm whether this link exists and, if so, how strong it is. It is important to note the majority of women do experience some menopausal symptoms, even those who go on to develop breast cancer.
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