Migraines Decrease Risk of Breast Cancer? Maybe Not.

by Teri Robert, MyMigraineConnection Lead Expert

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at the University of Washington Medical Center have published a research article stating that women with Migraines have a 30% lower risk of Breast Cancer.

One of the researchers, Dr. Christopher Lee, stated:

"We found that, overall, women who had a history of Migraines had a 30 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who did not have a history of such headaches... Women who have higher levels of estrogen in their blood have higher levels of breast cancer."

This study was conducted by analyzing data from two studies of postmenopausal women in the Seattle area. The total number of subjects in the two trials was 3,412, ages 55 to 79 years.

Thoughts behind this study
In the introduction section of the journal article, the authors make some basic statements that show some of their reasoning in forming their hypothesis and conducting this study:

  • "Migraine is a common neurologic disorder characterized by episodic attacks of moderate to severe throbbing headache, which may be disabling and accompanied by nausea, vomiting, photophobia, and/or phonophobia."1
  • "Several observations support a relationship between female sex hormones and Migraines."1
  • "Low levels of serotonin are clearly associated with increased frequency of Migraine, and estrogen positively regulates serotonin."1
  • "Of particular relevance, Migraines in women are often associated with estrogen withdrawal states and low serotonin levels. Migraine frequency increases immediately before or during menses when endogenous estrogen levels decline in cycling premenopausal women, and it also increases during the hormone-free week of oral contraceptive use."1

Study conclusion
"Women who reported a clinical diagnosis of Migraine had a 33% reduced risk of IDC [invasive duct carcinoma] (95% CI, 0.54-0.82) and a 32% reduced risk of ILC [invasive lobular carcinoma] (95% CI, 0.52-0.90) compared with women with no history of Migraine (Table 2). These reductions in risk did not vary substantially by age at Migraine diagnosis or by history of ever using prescription Migraine medications."1

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