Doc: Vitamin E no miracle cure for hot flashes
Dear Dr. Roach: There is a very easy cure for hot flashes — and it works! Take 400 units of vitamin E twice a day. The flashes will disappear in three days. This has worked for countless women for years. Why don’t doctors know about this?
Dear S.P.B.: Researchers have evaluated vitamin E for the treatment of hot flashes. One study found that vitamin E reduced hot flashes by about 25 percent, but an identical pill with no vitamin E reduced hot flashes by 22 percent. Another study showed that women had five hot flashes a day on placebo, and 3.2 a day on vitamin E.
On the basis of this, I can’t recommend vitamin E as a very effective treatment. However, it is safe and is at least partially effective for some women.
Dear Dr. Roach: A recent column discussed female pattern hair loss. I experienced hair loss similar to what this woman described. I am 65, and the receding hairline and loss of crown hair started when I was 60. I asked every doctor I went to (including a dermatologist, an internist and a gynecologist) why my hair was thinning so significantly. All of them said that at my age, it could be expected. All of my bloodwork was good — no low thyroid.
In September 2017, a new dermatologist asked if my hormone levels had been checked (they had not), because it looked like male pattern hair loss. My testosterone levels were off-the-charts high. She sent me back to my gynecologist, who did a pelvic ultrasound, which led to an MRI, which showed that I had a small cyst on my right ovary (one that he had not been able to feel). He said it may be a very rare cyst that was secreting testosterone.
In January, my ovaries were removed, and testing of the cyst showed that it was a Sertoli-Leydig cancer that was contained in the cyst.
I thought it might be helpful to remind women with significant hair loss to have their hormones checked as a possible cause. If this had not been done for me, this cyst would not have been detected until it was much larger and the cancer more advanced.
As you can imagine, I am very grateful to my new dermatologist for taking the initiative in helping me get properly diagnosed. I am hopeful that my hair will grow back, but if not, that’s fine. I am happy to be cancer-free!
Dear Anon.: I am glad that you were diagnosed and treated in time. It is unfortunate to hear that your diagnosis was delayed. Female pattern hair loss is an overall thinning of hair along the midline of the scalp, whereas male pattern is a receding hairline and thinning along the crown. However, some people have a pattern that is difficult to type, and it is important to check for other signs of high testosterone. Growth of body hair, acne and a deeper voice all are indicative of excess testosterone in women. If it’s unclear which type, a simple blood test is potentially lifesaving.
Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.