September 28, 2011

The unexpected benefit of hot flashes

Hot flashes can be a real nuisance to many menopausal and even postmenopausal women. The nuisance can be so strong that many women will take hormone replacement therapy just so they don’t have to deal with them. I’ve told you in the past that HRT isn’t safe. But what’s surprising is that hot flashes actually provide a beneficial effect on your health.

Strange as it may seem, the silver lining for those suffering from hot flashes is that they may have less risk of breast cancer. In fact, some recent data says that they can reduce your breast cancer risk by as much as 50%!

A research team questioned 1,437 postmenopausal women. Of these, 988 already had breast cancer. These women were between 55 and 74 years. The researchers asked them about their menopausal symptoms. These included hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, heavy menstrual bleeding, depression, and anxiety. Quite interestingly, women with the most hot flashes had the lowest risk of breast cancer.

Stefan Gluck is an oncology professor at the University of Miami. He said the study “is another small, but important piece in our mosaic in understanding breast cancer.... It confirms that high levels of estrogen increase the risk.” He added that the reduction in risk is substantial. “At age 50, a woman has, on average, a 2% risk of getting breast cancer, so if she experiences menopausal symptoms, the risk is suddenly only 1%,” he said.

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Similarly, an 80-year-old woman has a 14% risk of developing breast cancer, Gluck said. If she had menopausal symptoms, it cuts her risk to only 7%. Gluck did mention that we don’t have data showing that if we artificially lower estrogen that we can cut that risk.

Hot flashes can be stubborn and uncomfortable. Tens of thousands of women turn to prescription estrogens to alleviate the symptoms. But these increase your risk of cancer. As a result, many are now turning to bio-identical hormones. The thinking is that true ovarian hormones are safer. Yes, hormones natural to your body are safer than foreign estrogens. However, that doesn’t mean that bio-identicals have no risk.

This report suggests that natural estrogen does carry some risk, since it is the lack of your own estrogen that triggers hot flashes. Will replacing your own deficient estrogen with bio-identical estrogen restore your risk to that of women who don’t get hot flashes? I don’t have the answer to that. But I’ve had these thoughts for years. It’s one reason why, unlike many of my colleagues, I am rather cautious with bio-identical hormones.

On the other hand, I have some great news. There is a plant estrogen (phytoestrogen) source that can significantly mitigate hot flashes, improve bone density and reduce breast cancer risk all in one. This plant is Pueraria Mirifica. You can order it from Longevity Research (800-580-7587) in a product called HRT (Herbal Remedy from Thailand). I suggest trying 100 mg daily.

Additionally, you could consider trying St. John’s wort (300 mg daily) to alleviate hot flashes. A recent study showed a highly significant reduction in hot flashes with this herbal remedy after four to eight weeks. It also has phytoestrogens. You can find St. John’s wort at any health food store.

And on Friday, I’m going to show you an easy way to reduce your breast cancer risk by 43%.

Ref: Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention online edition 1-26-11; Menopause, 2010 March; 17(2):326-31.

Soundview Communication, Inc.

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