We all love good news, and we’d all love it if it turned out that there were positive aspects to having Migraine disease.
Back in November, the media was buzzing, reporting that having Migraines decreases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 30%.
Yesterday, the National Headache Foundation blogged “Migraineurs have a lower incidence of breast cancer. Their blog entry began:
A silver lining for women who suffer from migraine has been discovered—researchers have determined that female migraineurs have a significantly lower chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not have migraines.
Overall, women with a history of migraine showed a 30% decrease in the incidence of the most common types of breast cancer.
You may ask what’s wrong with what they wrote. If you’ve been reading my blog very long, you know I’m going to tell you.
What’s wrong is that the study had some serious shortcomings. For one thing, patients in the study weren’t medically screened for Migraines. It all hinged upon the patients telling the researchers that they had Migraines. Many Migraineurs are undiagnosed, and some in that study may not have told the researchers they have Migraines. And, how many of us have had people tell us they have Migraines too just because they have a bad headache? So, some may have said they have Migraines when the indeed do not.
I don’t want to prolong this, so I’m going to give you two quotes from Migraine experts to further demonstrate my point about this study:
From Dr. Stephen Silberstein, director of the Jefferson Headache Center:
This study doesn’t prove anything. It’s not that I don’t believe the results, it’s that the results are not believable.
From Dr. Ellen Drexler of Maimonides Medical center:
Migraine brains are more sensitive to many exogenous and endogenous factors, of which falling estrogen levels are an important one for many female Migraineurs,…. However, female Migraineurs are not known to have consistently lower levels of estrogen than are non-Migraineurs… genetic factors may also be playing a role, as well as exogenous factors such as medication use, smoking and alcohol use, which may vary between Migraineurs and non-Migraineurs…
So why did the NHF’s blog entry state that there’s a silver lining, that women with a history of Migraine showed a 30% decrease in the incidence of Migraine — with no qualifiers on the statements?
I don’t know why, but it’s disappointing. We should be able to expect more from such a large, prominent organization. We should be able to expect them to give us perspective on such studies, not just regurgitate the statistics.
sources of information:
- “Migraineurs have a lower incidence of breast cancer.” National Headache Foundation Blog. January 20, 2009.
- “Migraines Decrease Risk of Breast Cancer? Maybe Not.” Teri Robert. November 24, 2008.