OCT 12, 2015 2:08 PM PDT

Migraines a Risk Factor for Breast Cancer?

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Hertrich
According to research published this month in Scientific Reports, specific types of migraines may be associated with the development breast cancer in women. Migraines are a type of headache disorder that occurs most commonly in women. Of the women that suffer from migraine headaches, approximately 50% of them report that their migraines are synchronized with the occurrence or onset of their menstrual cycle and thus, may occur as a result of changes in hormone production.

Breast cancer has also been linked to changes in hormone production. For example; women who experience the first onset of their menstrual cycle at an early age as well as women who have a late onset of menopause are reported to have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. In these two studies, the higher risk of breast cancer was associated with higher levels of blood estrogen and androgen levels. While some studies have reported reduced risk of breast cancer in women who suffer from migraines in general, these studies did not distinguish whether or not these migraines were associated with the onset of the female menstrual cycle.
It is suspected that the menstrual migraine may be associated with hormone-receptor negative tumors (estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors), which is the non-invasive form of breast cancer.

In the current study, researchers used a cohort study of 50,884 women whose sister had breast cancer and a sister-matched case-control study including 1,418 young-onset (<50 years) breast cancer cases. In both cohorts the subcategories of breast cancer in relation to the occurrence of migraines related to and not related to their menstrual cycle. Study participants were administered a survey with baseline questions including 1. “Has a doctor or other health care professional ever told you had migraine headaches?” Participants who responded yes were asked to report the age at which they were diagnosed. They were also asked 2. “Have you ever noticed a pattern where your migraine worsened at certain times of your menstrual cycle?” in which responses were used to determine whether the participant should be identified as a person who suffers from menstrual cycle associated migraines or non-menstrual cycle associated migraines. Women who suffered from both types of migraines were identified as having menstrual migraines. Data was also collected on use of migraine medications.

In general, occurrence of migraines was not associated with increased risk for breast cancer. Women who suffered from non-menstrual associated migraines were found to have an increased risk of the more invasive form of breast cancer while those who suffered from menstrual associated migraines were found to have a decreased risk. It is suspected that the menstrual migraine may be associated with hormone-receptor negative tumors (estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors), which is the non-invasive form of breast cancer. While this work needs to be repeated, results suggest that menstrual migraines may be associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Source: Scientific Reports; Cancer.Net
 
About the Author
  • I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!
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