Study Suggests Women with Migraines Have Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Jun 3, 2009 by

Study Suggests Women with Migraines Have Lower Breast Cancer Risk

by Reuben Chow

Migraine is an often painful and sometimes debilitating condition which seems to be striking an increasing number of people in today’s highly toxic and stressful world. But a recent study conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle has revealed a strange twist – that women who suffer from migraines may in fact have a 30% lower risk of getting breast cancer.

Details and Findings of Study

For the study, led by Dr Christopher Li, a breast-cancer epidemiologist and associate member of the Center’s Public Health Sciences Division, the team collected and analyzed data on 3,412 postmenopausal women. Among this group, 1,938 had been diagnosed with breast cancer, while the other 1,474 had a clean history of diagnosis. The research team also collected information pertaining to migraines which the women suffered.

The study, which was published in November issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, revealed that women who got migraines had a lower likelihood of getting breast cancer. “We found that, overall, women who had a history of migraines had a 30 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who did not have a history of such headaches,” said Dr Li.

More specifically, the subtype of breast cancer which was most affected was those which are estrogen-receptor or progesterone-receptor positive. These types of breast tumors have estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, or both, on their cell surfaces. Generally, this makes such tumors more responsive to drugs which work by blocking hormones.

Dissecting the Migraine – Breast Cancer Link

It is not clear why women with migraines have a lower chance of getting breast cancer. A possible explanation for this unlikely link might be estrogen levels – high estrogen levels are generally associated with higher breast cancer risk, while, on the flip side, women who get migraines seem to have low levels of the chemical.

“Migraines seem to have a hormonal component in that they occur more frequently in women than in men, and some of their known triggers are associated with hormones,” said Dr Li.

“Women who suffer migraines suffer them either when they have fluctuations in their hormone levels or particularly low levels of hormones,” he added.

There are a couple of examples to back this hypothesis. “For example, women who take oral contraceptives ‘three weeks of active pills and one week of inactive pills to trigger menstruation’ tend to suffer more migraines during their hormone-free week,” said Dr Li.

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