Breast cancer survivors often look to herbal remedies that contain plan estrogens to ease menopausal hot flashes because they cannot take hormone replacement therapy.
But according to a new study these plant-derived substances are no more likely than a placebo pill to cool hot flashes.
In theory, phytoestrogens would seem to be the perfect choice for breast cancer survivors, because the estrogens from plants don't bind well to receptors in the uterus, breasts or ovaries. But they do lock on to estrogen receptors in a variety of other spots in the body, including the brain and the bones.
For the new study, researchers from Helsinki University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland followed 56 women who had been treated for breast cancer. The women were randomly assigned to either a group that received phytoestrogens or one that received placebo tablets. After three months the groups received no therapy for two months and then switched treatments for the next three months.
During the study, the researchers interviewed the women about menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes. When the researchers compared the effects of placebo and phytoestrogens on menopausal symptoms, they found no difference.
Some might argue that it takes longer than three months for phytoestrogens to ease hot flashes. The new results leave breast cancer survivors with few choices to help them deal with menopausal symptoms. The only healthy alternatives are less alcohol, stress, and coffee and more sleep and exercise.
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