Alert
Close

Last chance – give now. Before 2014 ends, help struggling seniors. Donate

HIGHLIGHTS

Open

AARP VETERAN MEMBERSHIP

Military and Veterans Discount

CONTESTS AND SWEEPS

AARP REALPAD

Introducing RealPad by AARP

AUTO BUYING PROGRAM

AARP Auto Buying Program

Download the ipad App

AARP-iPad-ePub-app

DRIVER SAFETY

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

AARP BOOKS

Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Webinars

Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.

 

Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

Menopause Hot Flashes? Lucky You

Women who have the most symptoms have the lowest risk of breast cancer

En español | Most women find little to celebrate in menopausal hot flashes that yank them out of sleep in the middle of the night, the sheets drenched in sweat. But a new study suggests there really may be a silver lining.

Women who suffer menopausal symptoms are significantly less likely to get breast cancer than those who have no symptoms, the study found. And those with the most intense hot flashes — the kind that wake them up at night — are at lowest risk.

Breast Cancer Risk and Hormone Replacement Therapy

Researchers have much to learn about the link between menopausal symptoms and breast cancer risk. — Corbis

The study, published in February's Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, is based on interviews with 1,437 women in the Seattle area and led by Christopher I. Li, M.D., an epidemiologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Hot flashes, vaginal dryness and other symptoms experienced during the menopausal transition are related to falling levels of estrogen and progesterone as the ovaries shut down. These hormones play an important role in the development of breast cancer, but researchers have much to learn about this relationship.

Li says if the link between menopausal symptoms and reduced risk for breast cancer can be replicated, investigators can go to work untangling exactly what underlying process is protecting women with bad hot flashes — and use that as a basis for exploring new approaches to fighting breast cancer.

"Women who have these more severe symptoms may have some different kind of hormonal state in their bodies than those who don't have the symptoms," he says. It could have to do with the rate, magnitude or timing of hormonal change, for example. "That's what we really don't understand."

The study included women ages 55 to 74 diagnosed with breast cancer between 2001 and March 2004, along with a group of matched control women. Compared with symptom-free women, those who reported hot flashes and other symptoms saw a 40 to 60 percent reduction in their risk of the two most common types of breast cancer. This reduced risk continued in women who had taken hormone replacement therapy and those who had not, and regardless of age at menopause and weight, all of which affect breast cancer risk.

Whatever beneficial process those night sweats signaled, the impact seemed to last. Says Li, "We saw the same protective effect 10 to 20 years postmenopause."

So the suffering in menopause appears to have a payoff.

You may also like: Hormones during menopause?

Katharine Greider lives in New York and writes about health issues.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

AARP membership discount Man trying on eyeglasses at optometrists smiling

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at LensCrafters.

Grandson (8-9) whispering to grandfather, close-up

Members can save 20% on hearing aids with the AARP® Hearing Care Program provided by HearUSA.

member benefits adt companion

Members save on new installation of a ADT Companion Service® personal emergency response system.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points