Cyclic breast pain, called cyclic mastalgia is one of the most common problems in menstruating women. A recent study has determined once again, the therapeutic value of vitamin E as a safe and effective treatment for cyclic mastalgia.
This study was a double blind clinical trial in 150 women in Iran. Two groups of 75 women each were evaluated for severity and duration of breast pain which was measured according to a breast pain chart and something called a Visual Analog Scale.
Chewable tablets of either vitamin E 200 mg tablets or a placebo were given twice a day for 4 months, and again, the severity and duration of breast pain was evaluated at the end of the second and fourth month. The results at two months for vitamin E were dramatically better than placebo in severity and duration, and appear to be achievable in about 70% of the women. The improvement was seen as soon as two months, and no continued improvement after 4 months.
Commentary: Other studies have been conducted in vitamin E and breast pain. In 1997, Khanna et al compared vitamin E with a drug called Danazol. Vitamin E reduced pain in 41% of the women in the studies and Danazol had similar pain reduction in 72% of the women. Clearly the drug helped more women, but the side effects of that drug are significant and one third of the women developed other side effects. Meyer et al did a study in 1990 but did not show any benefit from Vitamin E. Ernester in 1985 studied 201 women with mastalgia as it relates to fibrocystic breast disease. He concluded that vitamin E was not effective, but he was not evaluating breast pain as a distinct issue. In 2004, Bespalov et al studied 66 women with a combination of beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C and garlic powder. There was a reduction in the severity of mastalgia, premenstrual syndrome, infrequent menses and menstrual cramping as well as a reduction in symptoms of fibromatosis in 75% of the women compared with 45% of women on placebo.
If vitamin E alone is not sufficiently helpful in reducing mastalgia, evening primrose or borage oil should be considered, as well as carotenoids, iodine, eliminating caffeine, lowering saturated fats in the diet and increasing fiber.
Parsay S, Olfati F, Nahidi S. Therapeutic effects of vitamin E on cyclic mastalgia. The Breast Journal 2009;15(5):510-514.