Black Cohosh for Breast Cancer Beaverton OR

Many women with breast cancer take black cohosh during radiation or chemotherapy because of menopausal symptoms brought on by the treatments—yet few discuss their use of complementary methods with their physicians. Because of this trend, a group of Yale University researchers is investigating whether the herbal medicine alters the cancer cell-killing action of medical treatments.

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Black Cohosh for Breast Cancer

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Since 2003, when evidence that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) might increase risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women, the herb black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) has gained in popularity.

Many women with breast cancer take black cohosh during radiation or chemotherapy because of menopausal symptoms brought on by the treatments—yet few discuss their use of complementary methods with their physicians. Because of this trend, a group of Yale University researchers is investigating whether the herbal medicine alters the cancer cell-killing action of medical treatments.

Their study, done in vitro using breast cancer cells from mice, tested the effects of three brands of black cohosh on five common anti-cancer agents. Their results show the herb had no effect on radiation or the drug 4-HC and that it actually increased the toxicity (effectiveness) of two cancer drugs (doxorubicin and docetaxel) on breast cancer cells. However, black cohosh decreased the effectiveness of the cisplatin drug.

“[In vitro] studies are interesting, but their clinical relevance to human experience is ambiguous at best,” says Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council in Austin, Texas. The Yale researchers agree that in vivo studies, or studies using live animals instead of petri dishes, are necessary, and they’re continuing work with live mice. In the meantime, they say black cohosh is potentially consequential to the outcome of conventional cancer therapy, and they state that breast cancer patients should be discouraged from taking the herb until its effects are better defined.

This study may be preliminary, but it points out the need to inform your doctor if you are considering or currently using black cohosh during cancer treatment.

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