January 18, 2020

Women who suffer from migraines exhibit a lower risk of breast cancer, studies show

Numerous studies have shown that the majority of migraine sufferers are women.  Specifically, of the thirty million migraine patients, three out of four are women.  It is difficult, however, to determine whether a woman is suffering from migraines or from another health condition where migraines result as an offshoot.  Although there is no definable cause for migraine occurrence, it appears that woman’s hormones often play a role in influencing a migraine attack, triggering debilitating pain, nausea, and light sensitivity.  Furthermore, although no one can definitively predict when a migraine is going to attack, most medical professionals agree that estrogen plays a significant role in the frequency, intensity, and fluctuation of migraines.  This may be why women experience more severe migraine symptoms around the time of their period and why birth control is sometimes used as a way to control migraine attacks.  This link between estrogen and migraines may also provide an understanding as to why women who suffer from migraines also exhibit a lower risk of breast cancer.

According to USA Weekend, studies published between 2008 and 2009 show that women who suffer from migraines have a twenty-six to thirty-three percent lower risk of developing breast cancer.  After these studies, researchers began to wonder whether it was the actual migraines or the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that reduced the risk of breast cancer.  The USA Weekend article notes that both aspirin and these types of drugs have been shown to reduce the overall risk of breast cancer and are often taken to combat migraines.  The researchers found that migraine sufferers were eleven percent less likely to develop breast cancer and seventeen percent less likely to develop hormone sensitive breast cancer, even if they were not  taking any of the aforementioned drugs.

The research team believes that the estrogen’s role in breast cancer and migraine attacks is the reason for these associations.  They cite the evidence that more women experience severe headaches around the time of menstruation and that pregnant women have fewer migraines once the estrogen stabilizes in the middle of pregnancy.  How estrogen actually influences these conditions is still largely unknown and more research will be needed in this area.  It does provide some hope, however, that those who suffer with migraines may be able to better manage them depending on their estrogen levels.  It is also significant that having such a debilitating condition can actually decrease the chances of developing another serious disease like cancer.