Persistent vasomotor symptoms tied to increased risk of breast cancer
Women with persistent vasomotor symptoms (VMS) are at higher risk of developing breast cancer compared with those who have never experienced VMS, a study suggests.
Researchers drew data from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study and included 25,499 postmenopausal women aged 50–79 years with available VMS status (never vs persistent) information. All women had never been exposed to menopausal hormone therapy.
In the cohort, 9,715 had persistent VMS (defined as symptoms that lasted ≥10 years) while 15,784 had never experienced the symptoms. Meanwhile, a total of 1,399 breast cancers occurred over a median of 17.9 years of follow-up. Researchers verified breast cancers by medical record review and enhanced cause of death attribution by serial National Death Index queries.
Breast cancer incidence was higher in the persistent vs never VMS group (hazard ratio [HR], 1.13; 95 percent CI, 1.02–1.27). Breast cancer-specific mortality was also higher in the persistent VMS, although the difference was not statistically significant (HR, 1.33; 0.88–2.02). Persistent VMS status exerted no influence on breast cancer overall survival (HR, 1.02; 0.81–1.29).
Other risk factors for breast cancer included an elevated body mass index (>30 kg/m2) and current alcohol use.
Additional studies in women who have persistent hot flashes are needed in order to understand their cardiovascular and cancer risks, researchers said.
Vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats commonly occur during menopausal transition and may persist. The possible link between these symptoms and breast cancer continues to be investigated owing to a common association with hormones.
In particular, hormone therapy has been shown to be the most effective treatment for vasomotor symptoms, whereas sex hormone levels also are associated with postmenopause breast cancer risk.