Study links migraine sufferers to low breast cancer rates
Anyone who's ever suffered from the debilitating pain of chronic migraine headaches would be hard-pressed to find any benefit at all to that blinding agony. And no matter what the "benefit" may be, I'm sure many migraine sufferers would happily exchange nearly any health benefits for the chance to live migraine free.
Until now, that is.
A new study has discovered that women who suffer from migraine headaches can have as much as a 30 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer. It's such a significant drop in the cancer rate that it may make even the most excruciating migraine seem worth enduring.
The key here is estrogen levels. The study showed that estrogen levels are low in women who suffer from migraines. And as I've told you on many occasions, high estrogen levels have long been considered a major factor in the development of breast cancer.
The study's top researcher Dr. Christopher Li claims that the reason many migraine sufferers don't get headaches during pregnancy is due to their elevated estrogen levels. "Among migraine sufferers who reach the third trimester, 80 percent of them will not suffer migraines," he said.
I'm not surprised that Dr. Li drew this conclusion. One of my hang-ups with the overuse of soy products, for example, is because of the serious connection between soy and cancer - especially breast cancer. The high estrogen content of soy foods is clearly carcinogenic.
Li's study examined the medical backgrounds of over 3,400 postmenopausal women and found that those who suffered from migraines had a 30 percent lower incidence of breast cancer. But at this point, these statistics are just that: statistics. Dr. Li has no practical use for the information other than to say that "advancing our understanding of the mechanisms of migraine may improve our understanding of how we could potentially reduce breast cancer risk."
Maybe so. But apparently Dr. Li has plenty of colleagues that don't buy into his theory. And in spite of my own issues with estrogen, I'm inclined to be skeptical myself.
Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, a deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society put his doubts very succinctly: "In practical implications - what should women do differently - there is no action a woman or her health-care professional would take as a result of this report."
It's a problem that I've told you about over and over again with regard to the many medical studies. There are piles of findings and statistics, but so many of them lead to nowhere. Some exist merely to underscore or reinforce long-held beliefs. In the case of Dr. Li's research, I don't think he's told us anything especially new about the known correlation between breast cancer and high levels of estrogen. And what is, as Dr. Lichtenfeld says, the practical answer? You can't give people migraines to reduce their cancer risk - so what then?
There are many doctors and experts in the field of both migraine study and cancer who repudiate the very premise of Dr. Li's study. Dr. Ellen Drexler, a neurologist from Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, for example, said that, "Female migraineurs are not known to have consistently lower levels of estrogen than are non- migraineurs."
And Dr. Stephen Silberstein, a migraine expert from the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia, bluntly disregarded Dr. Li's study, saying that it "doesn't prove anything.
"It's not that I don't believe the results," Silberstein said. "It's that the results are not believable."
Ouch. I often see doctors who question the results of studies, but it's rare to hear so many experts completely dismiss findings in this way. Given that there doesn't seem to be a Big Pharma angle to this story (which would surely have my hackles up), and that the docs attacking the results seem to have little to gain, I'm forced to question the validity of them myself.
I'm putting Dr. Li's study into the "Yeah and now what" pile.
The stereotype of most women is that they're, well prissier than men. They're more concerned with neatness, order, and - above all - hygiene. After all, it's your mom that was always nagging you to wash your hands before dinner, right?
Well, maybe we all should've been reminding mom that it's probably more important that SHE wash her hands. A recent study reveals that women tend to have a greater variety of bacteria on their hands that we filthy men. So there!
Researchers were shocked by the wide variety of bacteriological species that were found on the hands of those studied, and even more stunned that it seemed that women were worse than the guys. The researchers think that it could have something to do with the fact that women have a higher acid content to their skin.
The answer might not be as simple as hand-washing, either, since the researchers claim that hand washing does not eliminate bacteria.
"Either the bacterial colonies rapidly re-establish after hand washing, or washing does not remove the majority of bacteria taxa found on the skin surface," the researchers said in their report.
I don't know about you, but I'll never listen to the tune, "I wanna hold your hand" the same way again.