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Link Between Migraines and Reduced Breast Cancer Risk

July 21st 2009

A new study finds that women with a history of migraines have a 26 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer.
By Anelise Qumerais

There is some good news for women with a history of migraine headaches: a new study finds that women who suffer the debilitating headaches have a 26 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer.

The study, performed at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, follows up a 2008 study by the same researchers, which found that women with migraines have a 33 percent reduced breast cancer risk.

The two studies varied in a few key areas, including the age range of the women studied, with the first study focusing on women between 55 and 74 years old, while the latest study looked at women between 34 and 64 years old.

"We were able to look at whether this association was seen among both pre-menopausal and post menopausal women," said Christopher I. Li, M.D., Ph.D, lead researcher and a breast cancer epidemiologist, according to ScienceDaily. "In breast cancer this is relevant because there are certain risk factors that are different between older and younger women. In this study we saw the same reduction in breast cancer risk associated with a migraine history regardless of age."

The latest study also examined a larger sample size of cases. It looked at 4,500 cases and controls, compared to 1,000 cases and controls in the first study.

Li said it remains unclear how migraines apparently protect some women from breast cancer.

"We know that migraine is definitely related to hormones and that's why we started looking at this in the first place," said Li, according to ScienceDaily. "We have different ideas about what may be going on but it's unclear exactly what the biological mechanisms are."

The study appears in the latest issue of “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.”