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A pilot phase II trial of magnesium supplements to reduce menopausal hot flashes in breast cancer patients

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We tested if magnesium would diminish bothersome hot flashes in breast cancer patients.


Breast cancer patients with at least 14 hot flashes a week received magnesium oxide 400 mg for 4 weeks, escalating to 800 mg if needed. Hot flash score (frequency × severity) at baseline was compared to the end of treatment.


Of 29 who enrolled, 25 women completed treatment. The average age was 53.5 years; six African American, the rest Caucasian; eight were on tamoxifen, nine were on aromatase inhibitors, and 14 were on anti-depressants. Seventeen patients escalated the magnesium dose. Hot flash frequency/week was reduced from 52.2 (standard error (SE), 13.7) to 27.7 (SE, 5.7), a 41.4% reduction, p = 0.02, two-sided paired t test. Hot flash score was reduced from 109.8 (SE, 40.9) to 47.8 (SE, 13.8), a 50.4% reduction, p = 0.04. Of 25 patients, 14 (56%) had a >50% reduction in hot flash score, and 19 (76%) had a >25% reduction. Fatigue, sweating, and distress were all significantly reduced. Side effects were minor: two women stopped the drug including one each with headache and nausea, and two women had grade 1 diarrhea. Compliance was excellent, and many patients continued treatment after the trial.


Oral magnesium appears to have helped more than half of the patients and was well tolerated. Side effects and cost ($0.02/tablet) were minimal. A randomized placebo-controlled trial is planned.

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The authors are grateful to the VCU Department of Internal Medicine Residency Program for dedicated research time of HP; the Cancer Prevention and Control team at Massey; Dr. Charles Loprinzi, Mayo Clinic, for providing a trial framework, symptom assessment instruments, and guidance; and Dr. Mary Helen Hackney for assistance with patients.

Conflicts of interest

The authors hereby indicate that they do not have a financial relationship with any organization that sponsored the research. Research support for the investigators comes from the Massey Cancer Center NCI Core Grant 5 P30 CA16059 (TJS, GLP, MM, and CHB); salary support for TJS comes from GO8 LM0095259 from the National Library of Medicine and R01CA116227-01 from the National Cancer Institute. The pilot trial research was sponsored by the VCU-Massey Cancer Center, which has no financial interest in the publication or the results. Indeed, the low cost of oral magnesium (US $0.02 per tablet) precludes any commercial interest and was one of the attractive features of the therapy. The authors note that they have full control of all primary data, which is stored in the secure VCU-Massey ONCOR system, and that they agree to allow the journal to review their data if requested. All authors meet standards for authorship and have made important contributions to the study.

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Correspondence to Thomas J. Smith.

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Park, H., Parker, G.L., Boardman, C.H. et al. A pilot phase II trial of magnesium supplements to reduce menopausal hot flashes in breast cancer patients. Support Care Cancer 19, 859–863 (2011).

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