Prolonged exposure to excess estrogen is probably the most significant risk factor for developing breast cancer.
Excess estrogen also promotes cellular growth in the reproductive organs, increasing cancer risk in the ovaries and uterus.
What is the link between estrogen and cancer? The link involves how your cells divide during the natural growth and repair cycle.
Cancer involves uncontrolled cellular growth. Growth occurs when cells divide—one becomes two, two become four, and so on. Normal breast cells can progress to a state of overgrowth or hyperplasia. If this results in unusual cells, it becomes atypical hyperplasia.
With atypical hyperplasia, cancer can result if mutations occur during the cellular division process. Under certain circumstances, estrogen can stimulate the breast tissue to increase cellular division.
The Role of Estrogen in Breast Cancer
According to Dr. Susan Love, author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, women who take estrogen for 5 to 10 years generally increase their breast cancer risk up to 1.5 times.
Taking estrogen may add slightly to your level of risk.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended women discuss with their healthcare providers whether the benefits of taking estrogen and progesterone outweighs the risks. The FDA also recommends hormones should be prescribed “at the lowest doses for the shortest duration to reach treatment goals.”
Sources of Excess Estrogen
Estrogen mimickers are artificial hormones with a different chemical structure that behave the same as estrogen in your body. Sources of excess estrogen include:
- Hormone Replacement Therapy
- Synthetic Estrogen in Birth Control Pills
- Fat Cells
- Adrenal Glands
- Growth Hormones in Non-Organic Meats and Dairy
Measuring How Your Body Metabolizes Estrogen
Estrogens are metabolized, or broken down, by the liver into either:
- Beneficial Cancer-Fighting Metabolites, or
- Cancer-Promoting Metabolites
Many women’s health care specialists provide tests that determine how well a woman is metabolizing or breaking down her estrogens. These include metabolite ratio tests, DUTCH testing, and testing for adrenal and ovarian hormones. Based upon the results, your health specialist can then offer assistance to treat hormonal and metabolic imbalances.Genomics health professionals can provide MTHFR testing to check for inherited genetic variations that warrant nutraceutical support with nutritional and lifestyle modifications.
Reducing Excess Estrogen
The good news is you can reduce your risk from excess exposure to estrogen or their cancer-promoting metabolites with a prevention strategy that includes:
- Strenuous Physical Activity
- Specific Nutraceuticals/Herbs
- Specific Pharmaceuticals
- Proper Hydration
- Menopausal Support
Dietary Support to Block Cancer Promoting Estrogens
Adding phytoestrogens or phytochemicals to your diet is one way to block cancer- promoting estrogens. Phytoestrogens are compounds found in plants that may act like the estrogen produced naturally in your body.
For example, wild yams are rich in phytoestrogens. These weak, estrogen-like compounds can attach to the estrogen receptor sites in the breasts and block stronger cancer-promoting estrogens and xenoestrogens (chemicals that mimic estrogen) from attaching.
Phytochemicals are plant chemicals that have protective, disease-fighting qualities.
Some favorably affect estrogen metabolism in the liver. Phytochemicals are compounds in foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Phytochemicals give plants their color, flavor, and aroma. The expression “eat a rainbow” refers to the health benefits of adding various colored foods to your diet, preferably organically grown.
According to Dr. Susan Lark, author of multiple self-help books on women’s health, phytochemicals like diindolylmethane (DIM) can support normal estrogen metabolism for healthy breast tissue.
Broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts contain DIM. These vegetables can also reduce breast tenderness and mood swings associated with our menstrual cycles.
Dr. Lark also points out that glucarate, a phytochemical found in apples, apricots, cherries, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, and Brussel sprouts, supports the elimination of metabolized estrogens from the body through our bowels.
Supplements to Block Cancer Promoting Estrogens
Many functional health professionals recommend calcium D-glucarate supplementation when warranted to help bind and escort estrogen metabolites out the colon.
The body forms glucuronic acid from glucarates. In the absence of glucarates, the liver cannot properly metabolize estrogens, and the body cannot eliminate estrogen through the bowels.
Instead, estrogens can get reabsorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream, adding to the level of estrogen in the body.
The body reabsorbs water from the bowels, so water-soluble metabolites and estrogens from the liver can get reabsorbed into the bloodstream. Staying well-hydrated can help offset this, as can having sufficient glucarates in the bowels to bind liver metabolites.
Increased fiber in the diet can also help reduce estrogen metabolite reabsorption from the bowels.
While glucarates can help support the liver’s ability to metabolize estrogen and the body’s ability to eliminate it, there are many herbs, phytonutrients, and nutritional supplements to consider.
Consult with a functional healthcare provider to determine the nutraceutical supplements that are right for you.
Chapter 2 Covers these Hormonal Risk Factors:
- Pregnancies & Abortions
- Breast Feeding
- Birth Control Pills
- Hormone Replacement Therapy
- Soy and Estrogenic Activity