Evening primrose oil for cyclical mastalgia

Mellanby A, Best L, Stevens A
Record ID 31998008883
Authors' objectives:

The authors consider the effectiveness of evening primrose oil (EPO) in the treatment of cyclical mastalgia (breast pain which varies with the menstrual cycle), taking into account that exclusion of malignancy and reassurance are the main stays in the management of patients with mastalgia.

Authors' results and conclusions: The interpretation of treatments for cyclical mastalgia is complicated by possible confounding effects. Firstly cyclical mastalgia is considered to have a natural history of spontaneous remission usually related to hormonally related events such as pregnancy or the menopause and a placebo response as high as 94%. Secondly the inclusion criteria, study design and response to treatment measures differ in all of the randomised controlled trials and it is not possible to combine results nor make direct comparisons between the studies. Two partially unblinded randomised controlled trials have concluded that cyclical breast pain is improved by EPO. Three other trials, two fully blinded, randomised and placebo controlled, did not detect any difference between placebo and treatment effects.
Authors' recommendations: EPO has not been shown to be more effective than placebo in any trial that has been double blind control throughout. Other treatments may be effective and less expensive but have more side effects, and it is this last factor which has ensured that many consider EPO a first line treatment. The authors conclude that all of the studies suffer from shortcomings, and that there is no current good evidence to recommend the use of EPO for cyclical mastalgia. This will not change unless larger robust controlled trials produce positive results. However EPO may be an effective placebo.
Authors' methods: Review
Project Status: Completed
URL for project: http://www.wihrd.soton.ac.uk
Year Published: 1996
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: England
MeSH Terms
  • Breast Diseases
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Essential
  • Menstrual Cycle
Organisation Name: Wessex Institute for Health Research and Development
Contact Address: Pauline King. Wessex Institute for Health Research and Development, Boldrewood Medical School, Bassett Crescent East, Highfield, Southampton. SO16 7PX Tel. +44 1703 595661 Fax +44 1703 595662
Copyright: Wessex Institute for Health Research and Development (WIHRD)
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.