Background: Vasomotor hot flashes are a common symptom in women during menopause and in men who have undergone androgen-deprivation therapy for prostate cancer. Although treatment with estrogens in women and androgens in men can attenuate these symptoms, these hormones may be contraindicated in women with breast cancer and in men with prostate cancer. Pilot trials have suggested that the progestational agent megestrol acetate can ameliorate hot flashes in both groups of patients.
Methods: The patients included 97 women with a history of breast cancer and 66 men with prostate cancer who had undergone androgen-deprivation therapy. All patients had experienced bothersome hot flashes (median number per day at base line, 6.1 for the women and 8.4 for the men). After a one-week pretreatment observation period, the patients received megestrol acetate (20 mg twice daily) for four weeks, followed by placebo for four weeks, or vice versa in a double-blind manner as determined by pretreatment randomization. The patients documented the frequency and severity of hot flashes in daily symptom diaries.
Results: After four weeks, hot flashes were reduced by 21 percent in the group receiving placebo first and by 85 percent in the group receiving megestrol acetate first (P < 0.001). An intention-to-treat analysis of data for all eligible treated patients showed that 74 percent of the megestrol acetate group, as compared with 20 percent of the placebo group, had a decrease of 50 percent or more in the frequency of hot flashes during the first four weeks (P < 0.001). The degree of efficacy was similar in men and women. The only side effect was withdrawal menstrual bleeding in women, generally occurring one to two weeks after the megestrol acetate had been discontinued.
Conclusions: Low-dose megestrol acetate is well tolerated and can substantially decrease the frequency of hot flashes in women and men.