Treatment for breast cancer frequently results in symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, painful sexual intercourse, hair loss, forgetfulness, depression, and insomnia. This causes many patients to discontinue the treatments. The general opinion is that estrogen should not be given to these patients to relieve their symptoms because of the risk of making the cancer worse. Even some herbal remedies, such as black cohosh and red clover, should not be used because of the risk of stimulating the breast cancer cells. Acupuncture has been shown to relieve the symptoms, but has also been shown to increase estradiol levels which may not be safe.
Bee pollen products reportedly alleviate the symptoms of menopause without hormonal changes. One study even showed that pollen had some anti-hormonal effects. The present study was a randomized trial of women over 18 without residual but with severe menopausal symptoms on therapy of either tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors. They were given either a mixture of pollen and honey (sunflower) or pure honey and did not know which they were receiving. The honey was thought to be a placebo. They were treated for 14 days and then given a 14 day break, after which they were switched to the other treatment.
Thirty-one patients completed the study. One reason for dropping out of the study was the taste of the pollen. In both groups the patients showed improvement with no significant differences (about 70%). The people on tamoxifen had the highest rates of improvement compared to the rest (86.7 vs. 58.8%). There were no changes in serum estradiol. Even the patients receiving honey showed significant improvement, though they did show an upward trend of estradiol levels if they were on aromatase inhibitors. Findings show that honey may not be completely safe in people receiving aromatase inhibitors.
CONCLUSION: Breast cancer patients on chemotherapy showed improvement in their menopausal symptoms on trials of honey mixed with pollen and on honey alone.
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