Old news but good news.
Women taking supplements of black cohosh may cut their risk of breast cancer by more than 50 per cent, 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 and vaginal dryness.
Black cohosh (referred to by the European Medicines Agency, or EMEA, as Cimicifugae racemosae rhizome) is a member of the buttercup family, and is a perennial plant native to North America.
Historically it has been a popular alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in many countries including the UK, where it is estimated that 9 million days worth of black cohosh supplements were purchased in 2004.
“Hormone-related supplements (HRS), many of which con tain phytoestrogens, are widely used to manage menopausal symptoms, yet their relationship with breast cancer risk has generally not been evaluated,” explained lead author Timothy Rebbeck from University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
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.
Rebbeck and co-workers report that herbal 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 per cent), black cohosh (5.4 versus 2.0 per cent), 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 per cent 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.