Hot Flashes May Increase Cancer Risk

A new study has shed light on the potential link between persistent hot flashes and an increased risk of breast cancer.

Women who experienced vasomotor symptoms (VMS) for ten years or more were more likely to eventually be diagnosed with breast cancer when compared to women who did not experience VMS at all, the study found. VMS includes the conditions hot flashes, night sweats, and flushes.

The study was published in the journal Menopause, which is put out by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), and was led by researchers at the City of Hope National Medical Center in California.

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The data was culled from over 25,000 women who had participated in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). They were all postmenopausal and between 50 and 79 years of age. None were users of hormone therapy.

Researchers looked through 17.9 years of data for these women and found that, out of the 25,499 women studied, there were 1,399 cases of breast cancer. And women who had persistent VMS — lasting more than 10 years — had higher breast cancer risk compared to women who never experienced VMS.

In addition, mortality rates from breast cancer were higher in the women with persistent VMS. However, it was not considered statistically significant, and so does not show women are more likely to die from breast cancer if they experience VMS.

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Because breast cancer risk can be greatly influenced by hormones, the link is continuously being studied.

“In this large group of women who were not users of hormone therapy, persistent hot flashes and night sweats for 10 or more years were associated with a slight but significant increase in breast cancer incidence,” NAMS executive director, Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, stated. “Other risk factors included an elevated body mass index of more than 30 and current alcohol use. More studies are needed in women who have persistent hot flashes to understand their cardiovascular and cancer risks.”

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