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Migraine Not Associated With Cancer Risk for Most Cancers

Risk reduced for gastrointestinal cancers, increased for cancers of neurological origin

FRIDAY, Feb. 4, 2022 (HealthDay News) — For most cancers, there is no association between migraine and cancer risk, according to a study published online Jan. 18 in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.

Holly Elser, M.D., Ph.D., from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a nationwide cohort study using data collected from Danish population-based registries from 1995 to 2017 to examine cancer risk among individuals diagnosed with migraine compared to the general population.

A total of 72,826 patients were identified with first-time hospital migraine diagnosis. The researchers found that among individuals with migraine, there were 3,090 observed overall cancer cases compared with 3,108 expected cases (standardized incidence ratio [SIR], 0.99; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.96 to 1.03). From 1995 to 2017, the cumulative incidence of all cancer combined was 9.47 percent among those with a first-time migraine diagnosis. For most cancers, including hormone-related cancers, smoking-related cancers, hematologic cancers, and immune-related cancers, the SIRs were consistent with no significant association. Significant SIRs were seen for gastrointestinal cancers (0.78; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.70 to 0.87) and cancers of neurological origin (1.57; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.40 to 1.76).

“Although it is possible that these findings reflect a true difference in cancer risk, in the absence of any known biological mechanism linking migraine with these cancers, they are instead more likely a reflection of differences in medication use, shared risk factors, detection bias with increased chances of imaging studies in patients with migraine, or reverse causality in which cancer causes headache with migrainous features,” the authors write.

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