Wednesday, August 05, 2009
by: Barbara Minton, Natural Health Editor
A new study with far reaching implications has gone a long way in explaining why women get breast cancer and how they can prevent the disease and its recurrence. Scientists have found evidence that hormonal balance is key in determining whether or not a malignant growth will occur in a woman’s breast. Critical to the outcome is whether receptors in the body for estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are fully functioning.
A steroid hormone receptor is a protein located on the surface or in the interior of a cell that binds to a specific hormone, causing many changes to take place in the cell. The binding of hormones to their receptors triggers biophysical signals that can lead to further signal transduction pathways and the switching on or off of genes. Estrogen receptors are activated by the hormone17-beta estradiol, the most aggressive form of estrogen. Progesterone receptors are activated by the hormone progesterone, and androgen receptors are activated by the hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Team of scientists begins to explain the real connection between hormones and breast cancer
A research team composed of scientists from several parts of the world assessed androgen receptor status in a cohort of 215 women with invasive ductal breast cancers. Both androgen and estrogen receptors were expressed in 80 to 90 percent of the breast tumor cells. Their findings were published in the July 28th edition of the prestigious journal Cancer Research.
Using measures of analysis and regression models the team found that the androgen receptors were an independent prognostic factor. Women with estrogen positive cancers that expressed a low level of androgen receptors (less than median of 75% positive cells) had a 4.6 fold increased risk of cancer-related death.
Additional assessment with breast cancer cell lines showed that the ability of the androgen receptor to bind DNA was both necessary and sufficient for inhibiting estrogen receptor signaling. In the interaction of the androgen receptor with estrogen responsiveness, the action of the progesterone receptor promoter was critical. These finding led the scientists to conclude that androgen receptors activate target genes to mediate the stimulatory effects of 17 beta-estradiol on breast cancer cells.
One question arising from this study is why women have low levels of androgen receptors. The answer has yet to be documented, but evidence points to the hormones that activate these receptors. When levels of the sex hormones begin to decline, there is not enough to keep a high level of receptors activated, leading to atrophy of the receptors and rising risk of breast cancer.
This is a groundbreaking study of the highest importance for women looking for answers. It points to the conclusion that a full complement of the sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) and their receptors is what keeps away breast cancer. It provides a reason why breast cancer is not seen in teenage girls, a time when all of the hormones are at optimal levels, and it is a powerful vindication of nature’s human design. It also serves as a strong warning to pharmaceutical companies telling them they are headed in exactly the wrong direction with their cancer prevention and treatment protocols.
Estrogen is just the beginning of the story
It has been long known that there is a connection between estrogen and breast cancer. Estrogen is what fuels the growth of breast tissue in the developing young woman. But in older women estrogen has been thought to fuel the development of growth gone awry, in the form of breast cancer. The answer of drug companies has been to declare that nature made a big mistake in giving women estrogen. According to their propaganda, estrogen is really the enemy of women and must be suppressed with drugs to avoid breast cancer.
This study shows that there is a very good reason why breast cancer does not show up until women reach the age of hormonal imbalance and decline. According to the American Cancer Society, 97 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 40, with 64 being the average age at the time of diagnosis. Age 40 is the time when hormonal decline gets going to the point where it needs a special name, peri-menopause.
By the time a woman reaches age 64, she has completed menopause and is likely to be in a state of severe hormone insufficiency. Since breast tumors can take as long as 20 years to develop to a size detectable on a mammogram, this means tumors are initiated during a woman’s mid 40’s, showing that tumor growth begins just at the time hormonal decline swings into high gear.
Initially women complaining of the symptoms of hormone deficiency were given conjugated estrogen drugs, but research showed that latent tumors could blossom in just months when equine estrogen was given alone. So doctors added a synthetic progesterone drug, known as progestin to the mix. This combo didn’t make small tumors grow big in a matter of months, but it led to a huge increase in overall breast cancer diagnoses. This was documented in the Women’s Health Initiative Study in 2002. When women heard about the results of the study, they threw out their hormone drugs, but overall breast cancer rates have not declined. What most doctors failed to understand was that testosterone is the third part of the equation.
One of the cutting edge doctors who long ago realized the importance of testosterone replacement is breast cancer specialist Dr. Rebecca Glaser. Once an oncological surgeon, Dr. Glaser now spends her time practicing bioidentical hormone replacement. In her paper Breast Tissue, Testosterone and Pellet Implants, Dr. Glaser reports, “Clinical evidence supports that testosterone is breast protective. Androgens are known to inhibit breast cancer in almost every breast cell line via the androgen receptor. Adrenal androgens have been shown to counteract the growth stimulatory affects of estrogen on breast cancer cells.” She notes that testosterone has been shown to prevent proliferation, decrease estrogen receptor alpha to reduce estrogen activity, and prevent the stimulation of breast tissue. For Dr. Glaser, pellet implants are the preferred method for bioidentical hormone delivery. Her clinical experience has shown that in implant form, physiologic doses of estradiol in combination with testosterone reduce the risk of breast cancer
Although estrogen in its many forms is the predominant hormone of males, testosterone is also present in females at much lower levels. It is there for a reason. Testosterone is the balance for estrogen in the female body, as the androgen receptor study reveals. In another of nature’s brilliant designs, testosterone primes androgen receptors, and androgen receptors keep estrogen from being over-expressed. This balance is a concrete example of the yin and yang, the abstract symbol of the Chinese that defines how things work. It is a concept that is visible throughout the natural world, expressed in day and night, feast and famine, male and female, and love and hate. The concept of two-sided balance is the overriding principle in the human body as demonstrated by homeostasis, the body’s constant striving to maintain its equilibrium. This craving for balance is what the doctors prescribing estrogen alone or estrogen with progestin drugs fail to realize.