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Health News Archive 608 - Breast Cancer
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Black Cohosh Reduces Breast Cancer Risk 60%

Women taking supplements of black cohosh cut their risk of breast cancer by more than 50 percent, suggests an epidemiological study from the US.  The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, needs significant support from future studies before it can be recommended as a breast cancer preventative, but the research could offer a new avenue of research for the herb most commonly used by women to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes.

The researchers used a population-based case-control study consisting of 949 breast cancer cases and 1,524 controls. Demographic information and the use of hormone-related supplements were identified using questionnaires.

Researchers report that black cohosh use was more prevalent among African American women than European American women (19.2 versus 14.7, respectively), as well as specific preparations including red clover (4.7 versus 0.6 percent), black cohosh (5.4 versus 2.0 percent), and ginseng (12.5 versus 7.9 percent, respectively).

After adjusting for potential confounding factors the use of black cohosh was associated with a 61 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer, said the researchers. This risk reduction was also observed for Remifemin, a herbal preparation derived from black cohosh, which was calculated to reduce the risk of breast cancer by 53 percent.

"Substantial additional research must be undertaken before it can be established that black cohosh, or some compound found in black cohosh, is a breast cancer chemopreventive agent," wrote the researchers.

Previously, concerns have been raised about breast cancer patients taking black cohosh supplements in order to alleviate the menopause-like side effects. Researchers from Yale School of Medicine reported that black cohosh might interact detrimentally with chemotherapy by increasing cytotoxicity (cell killing) by two of the drugs, doxorubicin and docetaxel. It decreased the cytotoxicity of cisplatin.

Source: T.R. Rebbeck, A.B. Troxel, S. Norman, G.R. Bunin, A. DeMichele, M. Baumgarten, M. Berlin, R. Schinnar, B.L. Strom; A retrospective case-control study of the use of hormone-related supplements and association with breast cancer. International Journal of Cancer; 1 April 2007, Volume 120, Issue 7, Pages 1523-1528, doi: 10.1002/ijc.22485

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