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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 01/27/2011

Hot flashes, night sweats may reduce breast cancer risk

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

It sounds too good to be true, but there might be a bright side to the night sweats, hot flashes and other unpleasantries associated with menopause. A new study finds that women who experience such symptoms may be at reduced risk of several common forms of breast cancer.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle surveyed 1,437 post-menopausal women, 988 of whom had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer, about perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms including hot flushes (or flashes), night sweats and insomnia, vaginal dryness, irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding, depression and anxiety.

They found that those who had such symptoms had a substantially smaller risk of developing breast cancer, and that the risk decreased as the frequency and severity of the symptoms increased. Specifically, they found 40 percent to 60 percent reduction in the risk of the two most common types of breast cancer, invasive ductal and invasive lobular carcinoma, among women who had experienced those symptoms. They also found that the more severe the hot flashes, the lower the risk. And their findings held even when they accounted for other cancer risk factors such as obesity and use of hormone replacement therapies. Their work, which appears online ahead of print in the February issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

The researchers suggest that hormones may be the common link, as fluctuations in levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are associated with reduced ovarian function leading up to and during menopause. Those hormones are also known to play roles in the development of breast cancer.

Because this is the first study to look at menopause symptoms and breast-cancer risk among post-menopausal women, the authors note, their findings need to be confirmed by other studies. As one who has endured my share of perimenopausal night sweats and hot flashes, I'd say let's get moving on those studies, please.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | January 27, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  breast cancer, Cancer, Reproductive Health, Women's Health, menopause  
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Comments

Article title is rather misleading. Night sweats, in and of themselves, do not reduce cancer risk according to your article. Those that experience them have a reduced risk. Is that not so?

Posted by: ssklarow | January 28, 2011 2:51 AM | Report abuse

(However the title reads, ssklarow) - it would be nice to think there's a nice consolation prize! ;-)

Posted by: martha6 | January 28, 2011 4:50 AM | Report abuse

Is type of study and research is absolutely uneccessary and a waste of time and money!

. . . It's cold outside, therefore people tend to stay indoors more! Duh!?!? Or, it's raining outside, so studies tend to show that more umbrellas will be sold. Duh!!!?

Posted by: TheChampisheretoo | January 28, 2011 7:00 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm ... let's see. We can't control night sweats, without possibly adding more hormonal unknowns into the mix. But we could control the chemicals in our environment that cause breast cancer in the first place. It's so easy to make women themselves feel scared and guilty by focusing on individual variations that seem to have a slight affect on breast cancer rates, while ignoring the elephant in our living rooms. Let's stop blaming the victim and start looking harder at the more than 80,000 chemicals that we are exposed to all the time. I had breast cancer and I am angry about this diversion from the real issue. Diet, exercise, night sweats are all sleight of hand to keep us from addressing the toxic soup that we live in that has been shown to cause cancers.

Posted by: jmfrommaine | January 28, 2011 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Breast cancer is overwhelmingly a vitamin D deficiency disease.

Here is the proof:

http://www.grassrootshealth.net/press-20091207

http://www.grassrootshealth.net/media/download/disease_incidence_prev_chart_101608.pdf

http://www.grassrootshealth.net/media/download/johnson_sip_vit_d_breastcancer_2009.

Survival rates are directly related to circulating level of Vitamin D.

Wake up American women and look at the research!

Posted by: dokadow | January 28, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

what the article is saying, dear posters, is that women who ALLOW themselves to experience the symptoms of menopause (meaning -NOT taking synthetic hormones to artificially extend youth) have a lower risk of breast cancer. Imagine - the body knows what its doing without pharma drugs. Wonderful.

Posted by: sarah130 | January 29, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

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