Today’s post is a guest post by Dr. Joseph Mazzei, a Chicago based doctor for BodyLogicMD, a medical group which sponsors The Perimenopause Blog.
I asked Dr. Mazzei if he could give his opinion on estrogen therapy since it is starting to make its way back into the news once again.
In this post, Dr. Mazzei addresses estrogen therapy and its connection to breast cancer. His response to my question was rather long. However, I felt what he had to say was extremely important in its entirety. So, I will present his answer in a couple of posts.
Today’s post will be the first installment of two, or perhaps three posts.
The connection between estrogen therapy and breast cancer is a topic which causes a great deal of confusion. I wish I could answer the question with a simple yes or no. But like many things in medicine, the answer is much more complex.
The answer from the conventional medical community is that hormones are bad and estrogen causes breast cancer. This answer was born as a result of the Women’s Health Initiative study which was completed in 2002. It has become the definitive statement on hormone therapy, yet it has been misinterpreted by many.
What Did We Learn from the Women’s Health Initiative?
The study showed that synthetic progesterone, when used with synthetic estrogen, increases the risk for breast cancer in some women. The study also showed that women taking only synthetic estrogen (without synthetic progesterone), had a reduced risk for breast cancer.
From this, the conclusion was drawn that hormones cause cancer. This is what many physicians will tell you, what has also been reported in the media, and what is also being taught to our medical students. However, this conclusion is misguided and ignores a wealth of other available research on hormones.
Research on Hormone Therapy Continues to Be Confusing
I would love to tell you that there is a mountain of research which confirms there is absolutely no down side to estrogen therapy, but I can’t do that. The fact is, the available research on the topic of estrogen and cancer risk is confusing and often contradictory.
There are studies which show that bio-identical estrogen therapy can be protective against cancer. While others show that exposure to estrogen for extended periods of time will increase one’s risk of breast cancer. Even still other studies show the health benefits of estrogen outweigh the risk of cancer. While other studies do not give this consideration.
How to Make Sense of it All?
How does one make sense of all this? How could a hormone that does so much good, also be so harmful? To answer these questions, one has to understand a little bit about what happens to estrogen in our bodies.
Estrogen is Not A Villain
Estrogen is very important for a woman’s health, performing over 400 functions in her body which sustain health and her life. However, it has the potential to be very bad. What determines this potential is your body’s internal environment, and understanding that estrogen does not act independently.
- Estrogen is metabolized or converted to other chemicals by enzymes.
- Estrogen is influenced by other hormones
- Estrogen activates cells that have been damaged from a variety of causes.
- Inflammation, Immune System Function, Toxins, and Nutrition can all influence your internal environment and in turn, determine whether estrogen will help or hurt you.
Dr. Joseph Mazzei is a Chicago based doctor for BodyLogicMD and specializes in bioidentical hormone therapy. He graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine at Midwestern University and is Board Certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Emergency Medicine (AOBEM).
He is an Advanced Fellow in the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine Fellowship, and a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) and the American Osteopathic Association. (AOA). His Chicago office is located at 65 E. Wacker Place, Suite 600 Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 546-6490 and his Northbrook office is located at 5 Revere Drive, Suite 238 Northbrook, IL 60062 (312) 546-6490