VIENNA, AustriaWomen with monthly breast pain appear to have a
reduced risk of breast cancer, S. A. Khan and colleagues reported at
a poster session of the 9th World Congress on Pain. The study also
showed that women with a high consumption of dairy products had less
severe pain and that regular consumption of soy products appeared to
increase the likelihood of regular breast pain. Dr. Khan is in the
Departments of Surgery, State University of New York Health Science
The study was initiated because 30% of new patients seen at the SUNY
Breast Care Center reported breast pain. A group of 600 such patients
were identified from the Breast Care Center database and sent a short
diet questionnaire and a modified version of the short form of the
McGill Pain Questionnaire.
Dr. Khan reported that the mean intensity of patients pain was
4.9 on a 10-point scale, and the mean present pain index was 2 on a
scale of 0 to 5. Pain was described as aching, heavy, and
tender, and was most severe on the 23rd day of the menstrual
cycle. The mean painful area extended over 30% of the two breasts.
The size of the painful area directly correlated with impact on
quality of life (P < .05).
Dr. Khan calculated the age-adjusted odds ratio of a breast
cancer diagnosis for 4,681 patients from the breast cancer database.
Those with breast pain had an odds ratio of 0.42 (95% CI 0.34-0.51),
which suggests that periodic breast pain may be an indication of a
significantly reduced risk of breast cancer.
The mechanism of this potential reduction in breast cancer risk
associated with breast pain remains unknown. We are considering
the possibility that painful breasts may have greater infiltration
with immune competent cells, or may express pain modulating cytokines
such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, Dr. Khan said.
The relation of diet to breast pain and to risk of breast cancer
continues to be a topic of contention. Dr. Khan reported an inverse
correlation between consumption of dairy foods and sensory magnitude
of pain (P < .05). Soy consumption was positively correlated with
periodicity of breast pain (P < .05).
Breast pain has a significant adverse impact on quality of
life. Dietary habits seem to impact the intensity of breast pain, and
its presence may be protective against breast cancer, Dr. Khan