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Study: Migraines May Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Thursday, November 06, 2008 9:30 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Migraines, Headaches, Breast Cancer, Women's Health


IMAGE SOURCE:© iStockPhoto / splitting headache / author: pidjoe

A chronic aching head can be debilitating. For many, severe migraines can leave them bed ridden for the day, sometimes more. But new research offers some good news.

A newly released study found women with a history of severe, chronic headaches have a thirty percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who do not suffer from such headaches.

An estimated 1.2 million to 3.6 million people suffer from chronic migraine headaches.

The study, Migraine in Postmenopausal Women and the Risk of Invasive Breast Cancer, is published in this month’s issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Dr. Christopher Li, M.D., Ph.D., said, researchers hypothesize that the association between migraines and breast cancer can be linked to the variations in levels of circulating hormones.

“Migraines are more prevalent in women than men, suggesting they have a hormonal component,” he said. “For instance, some of their known triggers are associated with hormones. Women who take birth control pills – three weeks of active pills and one week of inactive pills to prompt menstruation – are likely to suffer more migraines during their hormone-free week,” he said.

By comparison, pregnancy – a state of high-estrogen - is associated with a significant decrease in migraines.

For the study, Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center collected data on 3,412 post-menopausal women, including information about their headaches. Among them, 1,938 had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and 1,474 had no history of the disease.

The conclusion of the study, the first to look at a possible connection between migraines and breast cancer, should be considered with caution and optimism.

A study, earlier this year, found migraines may increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke in women.

And another recent study found popular wrinkle-eliminator, Botox, can be used for chronic migraines.

Botox, or botulinum toxin type A, is the first therapy being investigated for chronic migraine treatment, the company says. Allergen says that patients receiving Botox experienced a significant decrease in headache days. #

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