Acupuncture/ pressureCancerMenopauseProf. Ernst

Acupuncture to treat hot flashes in breast cancer

Professor Ernst and colleagues have reviewed the evidence.

They’re not convinced. My view is less negative.

First, the details.

  • They searched for articles comparing real vs sham acupuncture or another active treatment or no treatment.
  • The quality of the studies was assessed using the modified Jadad score (described here).

And, the results.

  • 3 studies compared manual acupuncture to sham acupuncture.
    • 1 showed favorable effects of acupuncture in reducing hot flash frequency
    • 2 failed to do so.
  • A meta-analysis reported significant differences between acupuncture and sham acupuncture.
  • 1 study reported that hormone therapy was more effective than electroacupuncture.
  • 1 study reported no difference between acupuncture and venlafaxine (Effexor).
  • Another study of acupuncture vs applied relaxation failed to show a significant difference.

The bottom line?
It’s a decidedly mixed report card. Although failing to show a difference does not mean the treatment doesn’t work. For example, based on limited data, acupuncture might be an alternative to existing options, such as venlafaxine or hormones.

I believe the study reported in this review that found acupuncture to be equivalent to venlafaxine is summarized here.

11/8/08 18:28 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.