Migraine and breast cancer risk any connection?

Migraine and breast cancer risk any connection?

The Migraine-Breast Cancer Connection: Exploring the Genetic Link

Migraine’s potential link to breast cancer

People who have migraine may also have a higher breast cancer risk. Image credit: Sergey Filimonov/Getty Images.

Did you know that approximately 14-15% of the global population experiences migraines? Migraine is a neurological disorder that causes severe headaches and other debilitating symptoms. But did you also know that people who suffer from migraines are at an increased risk for other diseases, including breast cancer? In fact, researchers from the Cancer Center at West China Hospital of Sichuan University have recently identified a possible genetic link between migraines and breast cancer.

People who have migraine may also have a higher breast cancer risk

The Impact of Migraine Attacks on Physical Health

Migraine attacks are characterized by intense headaches that can cause throbbing or pulsating pain, typically on one side of the head. These attacks can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days and are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. The impact of a migraine on a person’s daily life can be profound.

It is important to note that migraines occur in stages, each with their own set of symptoms. Before a migraine attack, individuals may experience mood changes, dizziness, thirst, and/or increased sensitivity to light and sound. About 25% of people with migraines will also experience an aura stage, which can cause disturbances affecting their ability to see, touch, and speak. The headache stage is characterized by severe pain on one or both sides of the head, while the postdrome stage occurs at the end of the headache stage and is marked by symptoms such as tiredness, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, body aches, and depression.

Aside from the immediate impact of a migraine attack, past studies have shown that migraines can potentially damage the sensory nervous system, leading to sensory processing disorders. Additionally, research suggests that migraines may also damage the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious processes like breathing and heartbeat.

Both migraines and breast cancer are associated with changes in estrogen levels. High levels of estrogen can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. The severity and frequency of migraines, particularly in women, can be influenced by fluctuating estrogen levels during the menstrual cycle, menopause, or pregnancy.

Over the years, several studies have examined the potential link between migraines and breast cancer, but the results have been mixed. Some studies suggest a higher risk of breast cancer among individuals with migraines, while others indicate a lower risk. For example, a study published in April 2023 found that women with migraines had a higher risk of certain subtypes of breast cancer and an earlier onset of the disease. On the other hand, a study published in April 2023 showed that people with migraines actually had a slightly lower risk of developing breast cancer, especially hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

Unraveling the Genetic Connection

To delve deeper into the possible genetic link between migraines and breast cancer, researchers from the Cancer Center at West China Hospital utilized data from genome-wide association studies (GWAS). They combined data from five different migraine studies, involving over 102,000 individuals with migraines and over 771,000 controls. The breast cancer genetic data came from the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC), which included around 250,000 cases. All participants in the studies were of European descent.

Using Mendelian randomization analysis, the researchers investigated whether there was a causal relationship between migraines and breast cancer. The findings indicated that women with any type of migraines had an increased risk of developing breast cancer, particularly estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. Women who experienced migraines without aura also had an elevated risk of ER-negative breast cancer.

The Need for Further Research

While this study sheds light on a potential genetic association between migraines and breast cancer, it is essential to approach these findings with caution. Dr. Parvin Peddi, a board-certified medical oncologist, highlighted the speculative nature of the study’s conclusions. She emphasized the need for replication of the research in different populations and countries before drawing any concrete conclusions.

Dr. Louise Morrell, a medical director, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that association does not imply causation. She stressed that further studies are necessary to understand the multiple factors contributing to the development of breast cancer. Nonetheless, this study serves as a valuable stepping stone for future research and a possible exploration of the various contributors to breast cancer.

In conclusion, migraines have long been associated with a range of health issues beyond intense headaches. Now, with the identification of a potential genetic link between migraines and breast cancer, researchers have uncovered another fascinating aspect of this complex neurological disorder. While more research is needed to confirm and elucidate this connection, the findings underscore the significance of studying the interplay between genetics and diseases, paving the way for new insights and potential interventions in the future.

Note: This article is based on the study “Genetic association between migraine and breast cancer risk” published in BMC Cancer, and expert opinions provided by Dr. Parvin Peddi and Dr. Louise Morrell.