Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Font Size

Migraines Linked to Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Follow-up Study Confirms That Migraine Headache Sufferers Have Lower Breast Cancer Risk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 9 2009 -- Women who experience migraine headaches have a significantly lower risk of getting breast cancer than those who don't suffer the headaches, according to a new study.

The recent study is a follow-up to research published in 2008 that also found migraine headache sufferers have a significantly reduced risk of getting breast cancer. The newer study has thousands more participants from a wider age range than did the previous one.

"It does appear that migraines may protect women from breast cancer, and that it's equally protective for both younger and older women," says Christopher Li, MD, PhD, the lead author of both studies and a breast cancer epidemiologist and associate member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Public Health Sciences Division in Seattle.

"We see a 26% reduction in risk associated with migraine," he tells WebMD. The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Migraines and Breast Cancer Risk: Study Details

In the previous study, the researchers had evaluated 1,938 women with breast cancer and 1,474 healthy women, all ages 55 to 79, and found up to a 33% reduced risk of breast cancer among the migraine sufferers.

In the newest study, Li and his colleagues compared more than 4,500 women with breast cancer (who had been diagnosed between 1994 and 1998) with more than 4,500 healthy women, all ranging from 35 to 64 years old. The new study also draws from a more diverse geographic area than the old study.

All the women answered the same questions about migraine history, reproductive history, use of hormone therapy or birth control pills, menopausal status, body mass index, alcohol use, and smoking status.

Those women who reported a history of migraine headache that had been diagnosed by a doctor had a 26% decreased risk of breast cancer compared to women without a migraine history, Li found.

The risk reduction remained, Li found, regardless of a woman's menopausal status, age at which migraines were diagnosed, use of prescription migraine medications, or whether she avoided established migraine "triggers" -- including alcohol intake and hormone replacement therapy -- which are also linked with increased breast cancer risk.

The new research rules out many of the other explanations for why women with migraines may have a lower risk of breast cancer, Li says, such as migraine sufferers being less likely to drink or use hormones. "Migraine may in fact be an independent predictor of breast cancer reduction risk," he tells WebMD.

Today on WebMD

Business woman with hand on face and eyes closed
What aura looks like, triggers, and more.
woman with migraine
Get the truth about migraines.
headache in the bedroom
Keep headaches from ruining your sex life.
woman with hands on head
Test your knowledge of triggers, types, and more.
woman with migraine
drinking coffee
Migraines Headaches Basics
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Tired young man
spraying perfume
man with a headache
headache in the bedroom