Hot flashes are common, long-term symptoms associated with menopause.
While hot flashes can be uncomfortable and disruptive for many people, they may also come with an unexpected link: a reduced risk of breast cancer.
In this article, we discuss what the latest research says about the possible link between hot flashes and a lower risk of breast cancer. We also take a look at options for treating hot flashes.
Hot flashes develop when estrogen and progesterone levels begin to change before and during menopause. It’s thought that these
While more clinical research is needed to determine whether hot flashes could provide a concrete indicator of a reduced breast cancer risk, such menopausal symptoms do indicate a decrease in lifetime exposure to the hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that
It’s also important to note that
While hot flashes may be associated with a lower risk of breast cancer, there are still treatment options if you want to reduce their occurrence.
If you’re interested in treatment for hot flashes, your doctor will likely recommend nonhormonal methods first. These may include:
- low dose antidepressants, with the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)approving paroxetine (Paxil) as a treatment for hot flashes
- clonidine, a type of high blood pressure medication
- certain drugs used to treat epilepsy and pain, such as gabapentin and pregabalin
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy
In some cases, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be recommended if your hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause significantly impact your overall quality of life.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
If your doctor does recommend HRT, they’ll likely start with the lowest, most effective dose. It’s important to discuss all of the potential risks versus the benefits with your doctor.
In addition to medical treatments, you can ask your doctor about certain complementary therapies for hot flashes. These include:
Herbal remedies and supplements
While some herbal remedies and phytoestrogens are marketed to people experiencing hot flashes, it’s important to discuss these with your doctor before using them.
- try to maintain a moderate weight
- dress in layers
- carry a portable fan
- limit alcohol and caffeine
- avoid spicy foods
- try to quit smoking, if you smoke
- were assigned female at birth
- carry certain genetic mutations, which make up about
5 to 10 percentof all cases of breast cancer
- have a family history of breast cancer
- have a personal history of benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) breast conditions
- previously had radiation treatments to your chest area
- started menstruating
before age 12
- were exposed to
diethylstilbestrol (DES)during pregnancy
- started menopause
after age 55
Lifestyle factors that may increase your risk
Some lifestyle factors that may also increase your risk of developing breast cancer
- having overweight or obesity, particularly after menopause
- drinking alcohol
- not getting enough physical activity
- taking hormonal birth control
- taking HRT for menopause
- never breastfeeding
Other potential — but unproven — risk factors
- eating a high fat diet
- night shift work
- exposure to environmental chemicals, such as pesticides and plastics
- tobacco smoke exposure
Hot flashes occur before, during, and after menopause as estrogen and progesterone hormones start declining.
While the exact relationship still requires further clinical research, some studies have revealed a link between hot flashes and a reduced risk of developing breast cancer.
Hot flashes alone don’t decrease the risk of breast cancer developing, but they may indicate a lowered lifetime exposure to hormones that do contribute to cancer risk.
In the meantime, if you’re currently experiencing hot flashes, you may consider talking with a doctor about treatment options that could help you find relief without contributing to your overall breast cancer risk.
It’s also important to understand your own personal breast cancer risks to help reduce the chances of its development.