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Hot Flash: Why Feeling Extra Steamy May Be Good for Your Breasts

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Menopause can be a liberating experience.

In our youth-celebrated society, it can be gratifying to reach the point where you are not having to worry about feminine protection, birth control or cramps.

For some women however, menopausal symptoms can have a negative impact on the quality of life. Women who experience hot flashes or night sweats (hot flashes at night) might say that's the single most irritating part of menopause. Rest assured, if you ever experience it, you’ll know.

It starts out with a rapid heartbeat and a feeling of pressure in your head. Then a mild warmth to an intense heat spreads through your face and upper body, sometimes turning your skin into a red blotchy patchwork as beads of perspiration begin pooling on your forehead, cheeks and neck. Sometimes you can feel dizzy, faint, or fatigued. If severe, hot flashes can be unsettling, even disrupting.

If you are a hot flash warrior, there may be a silver lining. According to a recent study by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, women who have experienced hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause may have a 50 percent lower risk of developing the most common forms of breast cancer than postmenopausal women who have never had such symptoms.

The results of the first study to examine the relationship between menopausal symptoms and breast cancer risk are available online ahead of the February 2011 print issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.

The protective effect appeared to increase along with the number and severity of menopausal symptoms, according to senior author Christopher I. Li, M.D., Ph.D., and a Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division breast cancer epidemiologist.

"In particular we found that women who experienced more intense hot flushes – the kind that woke them up at night – had a particularly low risk of breast cancer," Li said.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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