Acupuncture for the Treatment of Hot Flashes in Cancer Patients

  • Francesco C. Peluso
  • Paul R. Graves
  • Hani Ashamalla
Part of the Evidence-based Anticancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine book series (ACAM, volume 3)


Hot flashes, a phenomenon characterized by an intense feeling of heat and visible reddening in the upper body, have frequently been described in cancer patients undergoing hormonal deprivation or hormonal ablation therapy. The occurrence of hot flashes can substantially affect the quality of life in such patients. Though several treatments are available to reduce hot flashes, many have significant side effects of their own. Acupuncture has emerged as a promising treatment modality to alleviate hot flashes in cancer patients. In prostate cancer patients, six different studies concluded that acupuncture reduces the incidence and severity of hot flashes well beyond the estimated placebo effect and the effects of alternative treatments such as venlafaxine with minimal side effects. In breast cancer patients, acupuncture trials have yielded similar results. However, there are more conflicting results among randomized clinical trials which use sham acupuncture as a control; with one study concluding that actual acupuncture is no better than sham acupuncture in reducing hot flash incidence. In fact, two systematic reviews concluded that current evidence did not suggest that acupuncture was an effective treatment for hot flashes in breast cancer and prostate cancer patients due to the paucity and poor quality of the primary data (Lee et al., Breast Cancer Research Treatments, 115:497–503, 2009; Supportive Care Cancer, 17:763–770, 2009). These conclusions are at least partly due to the inherent difficulties involved in the proper blinding of acupuncture practitioners and the development of an adequate placebo to mimic the therapeutic experience of acupuncture. Because the overall evidence from well-controlled, randomized clinical trials is currently limited, it is not possible to unequivocally state that acupuncture is more effective than venlafaxine for hot flashes – the medication that has yielded the most impressive benefits in treating hot flashes. However, since the majority of acupuncture trials have provided very encouraging results with minimal side effects, future studies are warranted to further investigate and assess the potential role of acupuncture in the treatment of hot flashes in cancer patients.


Androgen Deprivation Therapy Acupuncture Group Sham Acupuncture Traditional Acupuncture Acupuncture Trial 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco C. Peluso
    • 2
  • Paul R. Graves
    • 1
  • Hani Ashamalla
    • 1
  1. 1.Radiation Oncology DepartmentNew York Methodist Hospital and Weill Medical College of Cornell UniversityBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.State University of New York Downstate Medical CenterBrooklynUSA

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