Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

'Migraines mean less cancer risk'

  • 1 Comment
Nursing Times' weekly series sifts the facts from the fiction. This week 'Migraines mean less cancer risk'

What did the media say?

The media reported that women who suffer regular migraines may be at lower risk of developing breast cancer in the future.
What does the research show?

US researchers looked at data from two population studies involving 3,412 postmenopausal women. Of these, 1,199 women had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma, 739 with lobular carcinoma and 1,474 had no history of breast cancer.

The subjects were all aged 55–79 years. They were asked to self-report their history of migraine that had been diagnosed by a health professional.

Women with a clinical diagnosis of migraine had a 33% reduced relative risk of ductal carcinoma (odds ratio of 0.67) and a 32% reduced relative risk of lobular carcinoma (odds ratio of 0.68). These observed risk reductions were primarily limited to hormone receptor-positive tumours. It is the first study to identify such a link.

What did the authors say?

‘Overall, women who had a history of migraines had a 30% lower risk of breast cancer compared with women who did not have a history of such headaches,’ said study author Christopher Li, a breast cancer epidemiologist and associate member of the Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

‘While these results need to be interpreted with caution, they point to a possible new factor that may be related to breast cancer risk.’

What does it mean for nursing practice?

Dr Andy Dowson, chairperson of the Migraine Action Association medical advisory board, said: ‘This study samples a highly selected population of women which does not necessarily represent the much larger population of female migraneurs who never see a doctor.’

He added: ‘The authors do not seem to consider important facts that we already know about both migraine and breast cancer when creating their theory.’

He said that, while it was known that migraine was affected by fluctuations in oestrogen, the latest findings from a major study, the Women’s Health Initiative, suggested that progestogens, not oestrogen, were the ‘culprits in breast cancer’.

Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention (2008) 17: 3116–3122

Click here to read 'The nurse's role in the management of migraine'

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Hello,
    We have published a groundbreaking book, Migraine Expressions, depicting the world of life with migraine through the art and words of the most precious and trusted sources – those who live in it.
    This collection of personal expressions from people around the world impacted by this disease illustrates some of the ways millions upon millions of migraineurs and their loved ones feel, love, work and play while trying to manage symptoms and live well.
    See sample pages and purchase here:
    Here are some of the reviews:
    “Congratulations! The images and the words are compelling. Migraineurs will relate to the visual images and poems.”
    Suzanne E. Simons, Executive Director of the National Headache Foundation

    "Migraine Expressions reveals highly personal perspectives as contributors transform their experiences into stunning verbal and visual art. The book will help people with migraine find their individual voices even as they recognize the universality of their shared experiences.” Richard B. Lipton, MD, Professor of Neurology and Director, Montefiore Headache Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

    “Unbelievable book...”
    Scott F. Madden, F.A.C.H.E., Vice President & Administrator, Michigan Head-Pain & Neurological Institute (MHNI)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs