Clinical Abstracts: Magnets for Hot Flashes

Source: Carpenter JS, et al. A pilot study of magnetic therapy for hot flashes after breast cancer. Cancer Nurs 2002;25:104-109.

Design/Setting/Subjects: A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover pilot trial in 15 postmenopausal breast cancer survivors with hot flashes (55% on tamoxifen). Subjects were recruited from previous research subjects who had agreed to be contacted about further research studies, and from a cancer center in the southeastern United States.

Intervention: Magnets vs. a placebo device, each worn for 72 hours. Six magnetic devices (Magna-Bloc, each consisting of a hard plastic outer layer and an inner layer imbedded with four magnets of alternating polarity) were placed over acupuncture sites commonly used to treat hot flashes. There was a 10-day washout period between groups.

Outcome Measures: Ambulatory sternal skin conductance monitoring assessed hot flash frequency at baseline and at the end of each study phase. Subjects also kept a hot flash diary.

Funding: Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Support grant (IP30 CA68485) and the Vanderbilt University Joint Center for Nursing Research.

Results: Eleven women completed the study. Reasons for dropout included difficulty keeping the device attached because of perspiration (1), lack of interest (2), and itching related to the adhesive tape (1). Hot flash frequency (by skin conductance monitoring) and hot flash bother (by diary) were significantly less common during the placebo phase compared to the magnet phase (P = 0.02 for each). There was no difference between groups in hot flash severity, interference with daily activities, and overall quality of life. Participants rated the acceptability of both devices as high; however, 27% of subjects reported problems with the devices: itching, redness, or loose tape secondary to perspiration. By the end of the second week, 55% of participants reported itching.

Comments: This study does not support the use of magnets for treating hot flashes in breast cancer survivors.