Thursday, 06 Nov, 2008 Health & Fitness

Women Who Suffer from Headaches Are Less Likely to Develop Breast Cancer


According to a new study, women suffering from headaches have less chances of developing breast cancer. Together with his associates at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Christopher I. Li, M.D., Ph.D., carried out the study that claims to be the first of its kind. The study and its results are published in the latest issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Mr Li, who is a breast-cancer epidemiologist and one of the members of the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, mentioned that the chances of developing breast cancer were 30 percent lower in women who suffered from migraines compared to patients who did not report about the history of migraines.

The article published on EurekAlert! says that the history of headaches lowered the risk of developing the most frequently met subtypes of breast cancer. Researchers have not yet clearly identified the link between headaches and breast cancer. However, the team believes that it could be associated with variations in levels of circulating hormones.

The lead researcher said that women suffer from migraines more frequently than men and that the main cause of migraines is linked with hormones.

"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 Li. In contrast, pregnant women report a major decrease in migraines due to the fact that pregnancy is a high-estrogen state. Li mentioned that by the third trimester, about 80 percent of women do not suffer from headaches. He said that estrogen is the one that encourages the development of hormonally sensitive breast cancer.

Although this study is said to be the first to analyze the connection between migraines and breast cancer, the team of researchers, when carrying out their study, analyzed information collected from preliminary studies that confirm the recent discovery. Li outlined that at present their results should be interpreted with caution. Nevertheless, the findings could map out the potential reason for developing breast-cancer and thus could serve as the first step to investigating the biology behind the reduction of the risk associated with breast cancer growth.

In their research, the team gathered information from 3,412 postmenopausal women living in the Seattle region. Among the participants 1,938 women had breast cancer and 1,474 reported no history of breast cancer. The two groups were compared. Scientists analyzed data on migraine history only if it was diagnosed by a health expert of a physician.

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