Protecting Your Private Parts from Cancer

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Published September 2007

“Dear Pharmacist,

I used to take Prempro, but shortly after that scary study years ago my doctor stopped all my hormones. He said it could in-crease my risk for breast cancer or a heart attack. It’s been four years since I’ve been off hormones. Does this mean I don’t have to worry anymore?”

–L.K., Bethesda, Maryland

ANSWER: That scary study you refer to is the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which was halted in 2002 when certain parts of the trial suggested a greater risk for cancer, heart attack, stroke and blood clots. The medications used in the study con-tained equine estrogen and synthetic progestins (i.e. Premarin, Prempro).

A new JAMA study found that once women stop these types of drugs, their risk for heart attack and blood clots does go down, although the risk for cancer still remains slightly higher than women who did not take these drugs. Now, the development of cancer depends on many, many things—your genes, your weight, how long you took these drugs, your liver and kidney function, whether you exercise and what you eat. I wouldn’t ‘worry’ because this type of negative ‘meditation’ only frightens you. But it’s completely within your power to take action and make changes to help yourself. Some cancers are driven by estrogen—any kind of estrogen, even the bio-identical sort, and the type used in birth control pills. So just remember: Estrogen has to do its job in your body and then leave. When the harmful by-products of estrogen linger, rather than clearing your body, your risk for cancer increases. So I always tell my patients that if you take (or have taken) estrogen-containing hormones of any sort, it’s time to focus on ways to ‘unglue’ the harmful estrogen by-products that are wedged in your cells waiting for the right set of circumstances to start multiplying.

If overweight, you should exercise because fat cells hold onto estrogen and when you lose weight, the estrogen burden lessens. What you eat matters too. So simple, but true. Foods rich in a compound called I3C (indole-3-carbonal) turns aggressive estro-gens into meek ones that leave the body easily. Guys, I3C can confer protection to your prostate too. You could supplement with I3C (200mg twice daily) or you can eat foods naturally rich in I3C such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green lea-fies like kale, turnip and mustard greens, spinach and chard.

Oatmeal helps unglue poisonous cancer-causing globules that hide deep inside the crevices of your colon. Kick it up a notch and sprinkle a tablespoon of ground flaxseed meal on your oat-meal, or any meal, to help normalize estrogen levels. Also, iodine-rich foods (like seafood) or supplements may help because iodine is needed for healthy breast and thyroid tissues. Research these for yourself and speak to your doctor to make sure this is right for you. Everything you do now, matters later.

Did You Know?
Estrogen, sulfa drugs, sleeping pills, and alcohol are drug muggers of zinc, magnesium and B vitamins.