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Can Migraine Cause Protect Against Breast Cancer?

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A study found an association between migraine headaches and breast cancer. In this study, women who got migraines were more than 30% less likely to develop invasive breast cancer compared to women who didn't get migraines.

The researchers reviewed the medical histories, including migraine histories, of nearly 3,500 women ages 55 to 79. More than 2,000 of the women had been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. The researchers compared the risk of breast cancer between women who got migraines and women who didn't get migraines.

The results:

  • Invasive ductal breast cancer (IDC) was 33% less likely in women who got migraines.
  • Invasive lobular breast cancer (ILC) was 32% less likely in women who got migraines.

Migraine only seemed to affect hormone-receptor-POSITIVE invasive ductal breast cancer (IDC). The risk of hormone-receptor-negative invasive ductal breast cancer was the same whether or not the women got migraines. This result suggests that hormones play a role in how migraines may influence breast cancer risk.

The researchers also looked at whether any migraine treatments might have affected the outcome. But it was definitely the migraines that had the effect on risk, not the migraine treatments.

Estrogen can promote the development and the growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer cells. Doctors also have seen a link between estrogen levels and migraine headaches in women. When estrogen levels fall -- right before your period, for example -- women who suffer from migraines are more likely to have one. When estrogen levels rise -- during pregnancy, for example -- women who suffer from migraines are less likely to have one.

The researchers think that the same changes in estrogen levels that make a woman prone to having migraines also may cause the lower breast cancer risk they saw in this study.

This type of research offers doctors information on how breast cancer happens and helps them create better ways to prevent or treat breast cancer. Stay tuned to Breastcancer.org for the most up-to-date news on research that shapes the future of breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

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