Menopause is a natural event and so, understandably, many women are keen to use complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) to try to manage symptoms such as hot flushes. However, all therapies, including CAMs like herbals, carry risks. Many women resist taking hormone therapy for fear that it might accelerate the appearance of breast cancer. But how safe are CAMs and do they affect breast cancer risk? Obi and colleagues  recently performed a case-controlled study of 10,121 postmenopausal women – 3464 women with a personal history of breast cancer risk and 6657 controls without cancer. The women were interviewed and demographic data collected including their use of herbal remedies. Women were considered ‘ever’ users of herbal preparations (HEP) if they reported use for more than 3 months. Ever-users were considered ‘current’ users if HEP was used within 6 months of the referent date. Multivariate and regression analyses were performed. Ever-use of menopause herbals (9.9% of subjects) was associated with a decreased risk of developing breast cancer (odds ratio (OR) 0.74, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.63–0.87). No particular type of herbal therapy was particularly linked to this reduced risk of breast cancer.
School of Women and Childrens Health, Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney, Australia
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