If you are undergoing treatment for breast cancer, you may want to think twice about using a common herbal remedy to treat hot flashes and other menopause-like side effects.
A study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, is sounding a warning about the effect of black cohosh on the medications used in chemotherapy for breast cancer. Many women undergoing breast cancer treatment experience menopause-like symptoms as a result of taking anti-estrogen medications.
Black cohosh has been used for years by some women looking to relieve the symptoms of menopause, but because it is a herbal remedy and available without a prescription, many don’t mention it to their doctors. For women undergoing breast cancer treatment, this can be extremely dangerous, research has revealed.
In a study conducted at Yale University, researchers tested the effects of black cohosh on breast cancer cells from mice. They used three different liquid extracts of the herb, all of which are commercially available.
First, they tested each extract’s effect on untreated breast cancer cells; none appeared to be harmful. When tested on breast cancer cells treated with radiation or a drug known as 4-HC, the extracts also did not appear to alter the effectiveness of the treatment.
But when used on breast cancer cells that had been treated with chemotherapy, the black cohosh appeared to change the effectiveness of the medication. In the cases of two medications, doxorubicin and docetaxel, the black cohosh increased the medications’ cell-killing effects, but it decreased the effects of another medication, cisplatin.
While the researchers used high doses of the black cohosh, they noted that their results showed significant effects at 2.5 times the recommended dose – amounts some women may realistically be using.
“These data sound a warning that the herbal medicines being used by patients undergoing cancer therapy can have effects on cancer cells that alter their response to the agents commonly used to treat breast cancer,” the researchers say. “Our studies caution that black cohosh should not be considered to be a harmless herb that is inconsequential to the health of cancer patients or to the outcome of conventional cancer therapy. Until the effects of black cohosh are better defined, the use of this and similar herbal preparations by breast cancer patients should be avoided.” From: CHealth at canoe.ca