What You Need to Know About Hormone Related Breast Cancer
Many women who are experiencing menopause, or other conditions that decrease estrogen production, are faced with the choice of taking the hormone estrogen and worry about breast cancer risks because of that treatment. Though hormone related breast cancer was a risk in the recent past, modern BHRT advances have moved far past the link between estrogen and breast cancer.
Replacing what the body is not producing eases symptoms of estrogen deprivation such as hot flashes, insomnia, painful intercourse, headaches, depression, and mood swings. It regulates cholesterol production, which protects the heart and arteries, and the hormone also helps to preserve bone strength and prevent bone loss.
In the 1960s, when women first started taking estrogen to relieve their symptoms, it seemed that the magic bullet had been found. A pill a day restored their minds and bodies to their pre-menopause condition and even improved their skin. Later, it was discovered that estrogen increased the risk of uterine cancer, so the medical community suggested progesterone be added to the estrogen. Women’s sense of safety was soon shattered when reports of hormone related breast cancer emerged.
These reports proved true:
- Estrogen-only HRT increases the risk of breast cancer, but only when used for more than 10 years. Estrogen-only HRT also can increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Combination HRT (estrogen and progesterone) increases hormone related breast cancer risk by about 75 percent, even when used for a short time. Combination HRT also increases the likelihood that the cancer may be found at a more advanced stage. The risk increases the most during the first two to three years of taking combination HRT. The risk returns to average about two years after stopping HRT.
Because of the likelihood of hormone related breast cancer, physicians became reluctant to prescribe HRT. When they did, it was in the lowest dose possible for the shortest length of time to reduce the worst of their patient’s menopausal symptoms.
Today, women have better options. All these studies involved synthetic hormone replacement therapy, not bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). BHRT uses compounds, many of which are derived from plants but are structurally identical to hormones naturally produced in the human body. The long-term benefits — in addition to easing the symptoms of menopause — include maintaining bone density, reducing the risk of breast and uterine cancers, and lowering the risks of heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that women who used bioidentical estrogen and progesterone experienced a similar risk as non-HRT users. Women who used non-bioidentical estrogen and progesterone had a 69 percent greater risk of developing invasive, hormone related breast cancer over an eight-year period, compared to non-HRT users. An FDA press conference released a report that there are no reported adverse effects linking bio-identical estrogen and breast cancer. A French study also shows that there is no increase in breast cancer in women using bio-identical hormones.
However, avoiding excessive estrogen levels is key to preventing breast cancer, from any source. Environmental estrogens are all around us — in food, plastic products, cleaning products, water, and more. Women can control their body’s level of estrogen to reduce their risk of breast cancer by avoiding known estrogen contaminates. Some simple remedies include:
- wash your food well to remove pesticides or buy organic produce;
- reduce the use of plastic in the home;
- do not leave plastic containers in the sun and do not use them in the microwave;
- do not use creams and cosmetics that have toxic chemicals and estrogenic ingredients such as parabens and stearalkonium chloride (cheap brands include more toxic chemicals);
- use a high-quality water filter;
- eat hormone-free meat and dairy products; and
- use organic toothpaste and simple soaps.
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy from our team of professionals at Apollo Medical Associates, in Colorado Springs, is a safe and effective way to relieve symptoms caused by hormone imbalance. These symptoms are often experienced during menopause, some to a degree that they reduce the quality of life for women during this time of transition. By monitoring estrogen levels and prescribing the appropriate dose of bio-identical hormones, we offer women the safest use of estrogen to relieve their symptoms and improve their quality of life.