In men with prostate cancer hot flashes are one of the most commonly reported adverse effects of hormonal therapy (ADT). Researchers at the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon wanted to confirm the many reports that acupuncture can moderate hot flashes.

Men who reported, using a patient daily hot flash diary, having a hot flash score >4 who were receiving ADT underwent acupuncture with electro-stimulation biweekly for 4 weeks, then weekly for 6 weeks.

The primary endpoint of the study, after 4 weeks of therapy, was a 50% reduction in the hot flash score as reported in the diaries. The researchers also examined the hot flash-related quality of life, sleep quality and biomarkers which potentially might be related to hot flashes (including serotonin, calcitonin gene-related peptide, and urinary 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid).

A total of 25 men were enrolled from September 2003 to April 2007. Of these, 22 were eligible and evaluable.

*After 4 weeks, (41%, 95% confidence interval 21%-64%) 9 of the 22 men had a >50% reduction in their hot flash score.

*Of the 22 men, 12 met this response definition (55%, 95% confidence interval 32%-76%) at any point during the therapy course.

*No man had a significant increase in their hot flash score during therapy, however, there was not a control group to see if this result could be attributed to the therapy.

*A reduced hot flash score was associated with improvement in the hot flash-related quality of life and sleep quality.

There have been multiple other placebo-controlled hot flash trials that have demonstrated approximately a 25% response rate. Of the 22 men in this study, 41% had responded by week 4 and 55% overall in the present pilot study, providing evidence of a potentially meaningful benefit. Additional studies of acupuncture, especially using electro-stimulation to mitigate hot flashes in this population are warranted.

Reference: Urology. 2010 May 20. Epub ahead of print.
doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2010.03.033; Beer TM, Benavides M, Emmons SL, Hayes M, Liu G, Garzotto M, Donovan D, Katovic N, Reeder C, Eilers K.

PubMed Abstract
PMID: 20494414

Joel T Nowak, MA, MSW