Black Cohosh and Breast Cancer a Dangerous Mix

Herbal extract may not be safe for women with the disease, study finds

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MONDAY, July 14, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The herbal extract black cohosh may not be safe for women with breast cancer or for women who may have undetected breast tumors.

That warning comes from a Duquesne University study presented July 12 at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Black cohosh is one of the most widely used alternative therapies for women with menopausal symptoms.

"Although it is unfortunate to be eliminating another option for women needing therapies to relieve menopausal symptoms, our findings suggest that women who may be at high risk of having an undetected breast tumor, and certainly those who do have breast cancer, should proceed with great caution -- or simply avoid -- taking black cohosh until we learn if there are ways to circumvent these adverse effects," lead researcher Vicki Davis says in a statement.

In research using mice, she and her colleagues found evidence that suggests black cohosh used at normal doses may promote cancer metastases in women with early stage breast cancer.

The study found that in mice with mammary tumors, black cohosh increased the number of tumors that spread to the lung. But black cohosh did not seem to increase the risk of the mice actually developing mammary tumors.

For 12 months, the mice received amounts of black cohosh comparable to a woman ingesting 40 milligrams a day, the amount normally recommended to treat menopausal symptoms.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about black cohosh.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, July 12, 2003

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