A young lady came into my office the other day to discuss hormones. She was a breast cancer survivor. Her concern, and rightly so, was her risk of getting breast cancer again. Since she lived in the south (our main office is in Ruston, Louisiana), she had experienced the women’s ritely passage of menopause: “the hysterectomy ceremony.”
Her question to me was: can she take hormones? Years ago, her cancer doctor had placed her on premarin, telling her that it was safe. She also was told that because she had a hysterectomy, progesterone was not necessary. Her gynecologist, in contrast, told her she couldn’t take premarin. Different doctors, different opinions.
I’m not trying to offer a third opinion here. I just want to stay focused on the evidence. That is what evidence-based medicine is all about. Unfortunately, market forces are clouding evidence-based medicine today.
In earlier posts, I’ve talked about progesterone, synthetic progestins and their polar opposite effects on a woman’s breasts. Progesterone lowers risks. Progestin increases risks. I want to get a little more specific today with some information from an outstanding review of the evidence. In Dr. Kent Holtorf January 2009 article, the Bioidentical Hormone Debate, he exhaustively reviewed 196 research articles. (If you aren’t up to reading the full article, you can read an abstract of the review.)
Here is my summary of the risks associated with synthetic progestins:
- increased breast cell growth
- increased conversion of weaker estrogens into more potent estrogens
- promoted the formation of toxic estrogen metabolites (16-hydroxyestrone)
- stimulated the conversion of inactive estrogen to active estrogen (estrone sulfate to estrone)
- had anti-apoptotic effects. (Apoptosis is programmed cell death: which is a way to control cancer growth. Anti-apoptosis means your body lacks this method of controlling cancer growth.).
Contrast this with the benefits of the natural bioidentical hormone progesterone.
- reduced breast cell growth by 400%
- downregulated estrogen receptors in the breast
- induced cancer cell apoptosis (programmed cell death that helps control cancer growth)
- reduced breast cell division and growth
- and in some studies, progesterone actually arrested human breast cancer cells.
After looking at nearly 200 independent studies, Dr. Kent Holtorf concluded that “Both physiological and clinical data have indicated that progesterone is associated with a diminished risk for breast cancer, compared with the increased risk associated with synthetic progestins.” Studies have shown that synthetic progestins increase the risk of breast cancer:
- by approximately by 25% for each 5 years of use
- by triple the risk (67%) of breast cancer when added to estrogen therapy
- double the risk to 4% per year when compared to estrogen therapy alone.
This is in stark contrast to bio-identical progesterone, which reduces the risk of breast cancer by 10%.
“As far as the east is from the west”—that is how different the effects of progesterone and synthetic progestins are on the breast. Holtorf concludes his article in Postgraduate Medicine with statements like this: “With respect to the risk for breast cancer, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, substantial scientific and medical evidence demonstrates that bioidentical hormones are safer.”
In my next post, I’ll look at synthetic premarin versus bioidentical hormone estrogen.
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- The Bioidentical Hormone Debate (www.postgradmed.com)
- Abstract: Are Bioidentical Hormones (Estradiol, Estriol, and Progesterone) Safer or More Efficacious than Commonly Used Synthetic Versions in Hormone Replacement Therapy? (holtorfmed.com)
- Study: Hormone therapy caused breast cancer for thousands (cnn.com)
- New HRT for Breast Cancer Survivors (www.health.yahoo.com)
- “Prudent” Diet Linked to Lower Breast Cancer Risk (www.nlm.nih.gov)
- Aspirin Cuts Death Risk After Breast Cancer (www.nlm.nih.gov)
- Aspirin cuts death risk after breast cancer (www.msnbc.msn.com)
- The Smartest Cancer Advice You’ve Ever Heard (www.huffingtonpost.com)