Do hot flashes raise breast cancer risk?

Washington: Frequent hot flashes are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, suggests a new study.

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The results are published in the journal Menopause.

The study, in which more than 25,000 women participated, sought to identify an association between vasomotor symptoms (VMS) – which includes symptoms such as hot flashes, and night sweats – and breast cancer.

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Through 17.9 years’ follow-up of these women, 1,399 incidents of breast cancer were seen. Women with persistent VMS (defined as symptoms that lasted 10 or more years) had a higher breast cancer incidence than women who never experienced VMS.

Although breast cancer-specific mortality was higher in women with persistent VMS, the difference was not statistically significant, which meant that persistent VMS did not influence breast cancer survival rates.

The possible link between VMS and breast cancer continues to be studied because of a common association with hormones. Specifically, hormone therapy has proven to be the most effective treatment for VMS, whereas sex hormone levels also are related to postmenopause breast cancer risk.

“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,” said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton. “Other risk factors included an elevated body mass index of more than 30 and current alcohol use.”


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