The Telegraph said:
"Dr Prithwish De, of the Canadian Cancer Society, and colleagues, found that use of HRT dropped from 12.7 per cent in 2002 to 4.9 per cent in 2004.
During the same period breast cancer rates dropped by 9.6 per cent even though the same number of women were having mammography tests.
Between 2004 and 2006 use of HRT remained stable at around five per cent of women aged 50 to 59 but breast cancer rates began to increase again.
Dr De wrote: 'The results support the hypothesised link between the use of hormone replacement therapy and invasive breast cancer incidence and indicate that the sharp decline in breast cancer incidence in 2002 is likely explained by the concurrent decline in the use of hormone replacement therapy among Canadian women.'"
The study's authors said these numbers support existing evidence of the link between HRT and breast cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is frequently used to relieve symptoms menopause, and to slow down some of the signs of aging for menopausal women.
However, over the years studies have linked HRT to increased rates of estrogen-related cancers, such as breast cancer, raising the question of whether or not the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.
First, it's important to realize that natural menopause, bothersome as it may be, is not a disease that requires treatment. It's a natural and normal event in every woman's life that occurs when you stop menstruating.
Surgically induced menopause, on the other hand, occurs if you have your ovaries removed and typically does require bioidentical hormone replacement to counteract the acute loss of hormone support.
Does HRT Cause Breast Cancer?
There's suggestive evidence that this is indeed the case, which is why I do not recommend using HRT for natural menopause. This latest study, reported in the British Telegraph, found that as HRT use in Canada declined, so did rates of breast cancer.
Between 2002 and 2004, HRT use dropped by 7.8 percent. During that same time, breast cancer rates also fell by 9.6 percent.
However, there's a twist.
After remaining stable at around five percent between 2004 and 2006, breast cancer rates then began to rise again, even though HRT use remained low.
The researchers claim this is an indication that HRT simply speeds up tumor growth, as opposed to directly causing it.
The Telegraph reports:
"Further evidence of a link between hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer is the rebound in cancer incidence rates observed in Canada since 2005. The largest hormone replacement therapy declines occurred among those older than 50 years, and the rebound in cancer incidence was also mainly restricted to women aged 50 years or older.
"Such a rebound might be expected if occult hormone-sensitive tumors were merely slowed by the withdrawal of hormone replacement therapy rather than prevented by it.
If so, hormone replacement therapy may be thought to act as a promoter rather than as a putative cause of breast cancer."
Still, whether it's a promoter or a causative factor, there's good reason to be wary of using HRT to address natural menopause...
According to last year's cancer statistics, the decrease in breast cancer deaths accounted for a whopping 37 percent reduction in the death rate among women during the period from 1990 to 2005. The analysts attributed this decline to decreased use of HRT.
That's an impressive decrease in mortality from a devastating disease, and a testament to just how lethal an incorrect pharmaceutical intervention can be. (Just imagine what might happen to mortality rates if we stopped swallowing a number of dangerous drugs that are currently taken by millions of people, day in and day out!)
What Else Could have a Dramatic Impact on Cancer Rates?
In a nutshell: using a safer more appropriate screening method than mammography...
The practice of screening for breast cancer with yearly mammograms is yet another factor that is keeping breast cancer rates high. For more information about the dangers of conventional mammography, please see this previous article.
The safest option for breast screening is called thermographic breast screening.
Instead of exposing your breast to radiation that can be 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray, thermography simply measures the radiation of infrared heat from your body and translates this information into anatomical images.
Another benefit is that it can detect signs of breast cancer as much as 10 years earlier than either mammography or a physical exam, because whereas mammography can only detect tumors that have reached a certain size, thermography is able to detect the potential for cancerous tumors before they've actually formed.
It does this by imaging the early stages of angiogenesis -- the formation of a direct supply of blood to cancer cells, which is a necessary step before they can grow into tumors of size.
What You Need to Know About Estrogen Replacement Therapy
Back in the mid-80's, after I finished my medical residency training, I was actually paid to lecture physicians about estrogen replacement therapy. At the time I was convinced it was a great strategy for menopausal women.
Since then I've come to realize that using synthetic hormones, and even natural hormones from animals, is not a wise choice.
Fortunately, so have most of the conventional medical establishment, and it is now common knowledge that HRT comes with potentially serious health risks, such as increased risk of:
- Heart disease
- Breast cancer
- Increased insulin levels
- Blood clotting
- High blood pressure
- Vaginal bleeding
That said, there is a viable alternative – bioidentical hormones.
Natural, Bioidentical Hormones
Bioidentical hormones just that -- natural hormones that are identical to those created by the human body.
The most commonly prescribed bioidentical is estriol. It's natural, not a drug, and you get it at compounding pharmacies. It's been safely used for decades, and I believe it's particularly useful when your ovaries have been removed or you've had a hysterectomy.
Dr. Jonathan Wright, who I've interviewed many times, is a pioneer in bioidenticals, and you can see what he has to say about their value in this short video.
If this is an area of interest for you, I would strongly recommend purchasing Dr. Wright's new book Stay Young and Sexy. It is under $10 and simply the best book I have reviewed on the topic. If the book were $100 it would be worth the price.
One thing to keep in mind when using bioidentical hormones is that there are a few different methods of delivery, and some are clearly superior to others:
- Oral supplementation is perhaps your worst option, as your liver processes everything in your digestive tract first, before it enters your bloodstream.
- Creams are one common alternative that achieves this. However, since hormones are fat-soluble, they can build up in your fatty tissues and lead to having too much in your body. This in turn can disrupt other hormones. It's also near impossible to accurately determine the dose when using a cream.
- Sublingual drops is better than oral but most still swallow the liquid and then it has the same problems as oral supplements.
- Transmucosal cream. This is the best because tolerance does not develop as there is no fat to cover the mucosa to store the cream. For a woman there are two areas to access the mucosa, either the vagina or the rectum. A male obviously would only have the rectal area.
Treating Menopause Without Hormones
Although bioidentical hormones can offer relief from menopausal symptoms, I do not recommend them as a primary solution unless you are biologically or surgically menopausal. Anytime you're dealing with hormone imbalances, it is best to let your body recover your hormones naturally if they have the capacity to do so.
The best approaches are often preventive and involve diet, exercise and other lifestyle-based strategies such as herbs and supplements. Many women may also not be fully aware of the detrimental impact of chronic stress on progesterone and estrogen.
So your answer might not necessarily lie in using hormones, but rather addressing your stress levels so that your body can normalize your hormone levels naturally.
Here are several other lifestyle considerations to take into account to maintain proper hormone balance as you age:
- Eat right for your nutritional type
- Exercising regularly
- Avoid refined carbohydrates, processed and heated fats as all of these can raise your estrogen to abnormal levels, as much as twice the normal. This is a MAJOR contributing cause of menopausal symptoms in the first place
- Consume phytoestrogens (plant-estrogens) such as licorice and alfalfa before menopause. This can help moderate your day-to-day estrogen levels so that when menopause comes, the drop won’t be so dramatic.
Beware, however, that soy is NOT a good option here.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels, as this is a must for gene regulation and optimal health. For more information, I recommend you watch my one-hour video lecture on this essential nutrient.
- Certain polyphenols have also been shown to have some HRT-like benefits without the drawbacks, and are associated with a lowered risk of heart disease. Royal Macha seems to be an amazing adaptogenic herbal solution for menopause that has helped many women. Be sure to avoid the inexpensive varieties, as they typically don’t work. If you chose this option make sure to obtain the authentic version from Peru.
- Get plenty of high quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil.
- Black Cohosh may help regulate body temperature and hot flashes.
In many cases, these lifestyle strategies will be very effective in relieving menopausal symptoms, but in cases where it is not enough, bioidentical hormones may be able to help.