I suffer from migraine headaches and recently read that this fact lowers my risk of developing breast cancer. Why is that? If I'm able to stop my migraines, then does my risk of cancer go back up?
Women typically suffer from migraine headaches more than men do. That's because one of the triggers for migraines is a sudden drop in estrogen levels—and estrogen levels naturally drop in the latter part of the menstrual cycle.
The link with cancer comes from the sensitivity of breast tumors to estrogen. Tumors are often referred to as "estrogen receptor–positive." In other words, tumor growth is stimulated by estrogen. Because women who suffer from migraines tend to have lower estrogen levels, there is less of a stimulus for the cancer to grow.
However, you can be confident that preventing your migraines won't increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
Prevent Migraines by Increasing Serotonin Levels
When estrogen levels fall, they don't fall by themselves. They also cause a corresponding drop in serotonin levels. Although low serotonin levels may not be the main cause of migraine headaches, they are associated with migraines.
You can help prevent migraines by taking the amino acid tryptophan to increase your serotonin levels. (Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin.) There are two ways to do this:
- Take 150 mg daily of supplemental tryptophan or 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan)
- Eat tryptophan-rich foods such as turkey, spinach, and shrimp, but also dairy, chocolate, and grains—which females will often crave a day or so prior to the migraine.
Other ways to help prevent migraines include chiropractic adjustments, balancing hormone levels, correcting constipation to eliminate excess toxins, and a variety of supplements such as CoQ10 and magnesium.