Here we go again. The headline reads "Study Ties Hot Flashes to Lower Breast Cancer Risk". The article goes on to blabber thusly:
'Here's some good news for women ever bothered by hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms: Your risk for breast cancer may be reduced as much as 50 percent, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle report.'
I imagine the next step would be 'Grin and bear it, it's all for the good.' to soothe the women asking for medication to alleviate the symptoms. I recall similar annoying headlines about the 'benefits of being a migraine sufferer is reduced breast cancer risk', when studies on that association were published a couple of years ago .
It's merely good sense to assume that natural drops in estrogen levels, that act as triggers for migraines, hot flashes and other typical menopausal symptoms, would occur in women who are at reduced risk for high-estrogen related conditions like breast cancer.
So, of course, we need another dozen studies to confirm this for us, so that we can have scientific proof, feed a group of researchers who would otherwise be twiddling their thumbs without work, maybe even paving way for public policy that tells healthcare providers to stop plugging HRT, as it may actually do more harm than good.
HRT has already been derided for its links to increased risk of breast cancer.
"Women who start hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as they begin to go through menopause have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who start taking the drugs later, researchers reported on Friday.
The findings, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, help answer lingering questions about just who is and who is not at greater risk of side-effects from taking HRT."
Each study generates its own screaming headline, but there are rarer looks in the popular media at the whole data set. They end up missing the wood for the trees. HRT is good for reducing cardiovascular disease risk, says one. HRT increases the breast cancer risk says another. Estrogen good for heart, bad for breast. The Pill good for ovaries, bad for breast.
Why can't we just let the hormones be what they were naturally without messing around and tilting the balance every which way via medications to alleviate symptoms? Would placebos help, even if we knew that they were placebos?
We will just have to wait for the day when epidemiological articles like these yield media headlines as illuminating as 'It's your environment and lifestyle, stupid!- The causes of Breast cancer unravelled' *.
*Not an actual headline, but one can always hope.
In any case, a picture is always worth a thousand words, so this one below ought to be quite illuminating, even if the data is about 7 years old. The numbers represent the age-standardized rates of breast cancer incidence. (Click on the picture for a larger version.)