In addition, the study suggests that the benefits from acupuncture in this patient population may be comparable with that seen with commonly prescribed antidepressants, such as paroxetine, fluoxetine, and venlafaxine, which can cause side effects such as nausea, constipation, dry mouth, and drowsiness. Approximately 60% of postmenopausal women with breast cancer who take an AI experience joint and muscle pain as well as anxiety and depression, according to Dr. Bao. She said these new study findings lend support to the use of acupuncture to treat these symptoms.

“Acupuncture really doesn’t have many side effects,” Dr. Bao said in an interview with “Further studies need to be done in this area, but [the patients’] hot flashes were reduced by approximately 50%, so it is a reasonable alternative to try.”

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Does Race Matter?

The researchers did not plan on investigating racial differences in this population of patients, but when they analyzed the data they found that, compared with white women, black women benefitted more from real acupuncture compared with the sham acupuncture when it came to reducing the severity and frequency of their hot flashes.

RELATED: Acupuncture Soothes Symptoms in Breast Cancer

The study only included nine black women, so the sample size is not enough to draw firm conclusions; however, a randomized controlled trial is now planned to look further into the racial differences seen in response to real versus sham acupuncture. “Age may matter, and [body mass index]. We did not see any differences [in this study], but it may be due to our sample size,” Dr. Stearns told “There was a slight suggestion that women who are younger may benefit more [from acupuncture], but it was not statistically significant.” 


  1. Bao T, Cai L, Snyder C, et al. Patient-reported outcomes in women with breast cancer enrolled in a dual-center, double-blind, randomized controlled trial assessing the effect of acupuncture in reducing aromatase inhibitor-induced musculoskeletal symptoms. Cancer. 2014;120(3):381-389.
  2. Bao T, Cai L, Giles GT, et al. A dual-center randomized controlled double blind trial assessing the effect of acupuncture in reducing musculoskeletal symptoms in breast cancer patients taking aromatase inhibitors. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013;138(1):167-174.