Breast Cancer: Environmental Estrogen

By Jennifer Kaumeyer, N.D.

October is breast cancer awareness month. Usually this is the month that all doctors, hospitals, clinics, non-profit agencies, gyms, etc. stress the importance of early breast cancer detection. While this is great and important, we at the Riordan Clinic would like to emphasize an even better concept—BREAST CANCER PREVENTION. Did you know that you could assess your odds of breast cancer years before tumor formation? Even better, if you find out that you are at high risk for breast cancer, there are known natural treatments and lifestyle changes that can help to significantly reduce your risk or even to prevent the occurrence entirely.

It is well known that women who are estrogen dominant are more at risk for breast cancer, as well as ovarian and endometrial cancers. Estrogen Dominance is a term that is used to describe the situation when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is too high. There is also what we call “bad” and “good” forms of estrogen. Keeping the ratio of good to bad estrogen at a healthy level is also key to preventing cancer.

It is well known that women who are estrogen dominant are more at risk for breast cancer, as well as ovarian and endometrial cancers. Estrogen Dominance is a term that is used to describe the situation when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is too high. There is also what we call “bad” and “good” forms of estrogen. Keeping the ratio of good to bad estrogen at a healthy level is also key to preventing cancer.

THE FOUR MAIN CAUSES OF ESTROGEN DOMINANCE ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1. Overproduction of estrogen by the body and increased body fat. Fat cells do
secrete estrogens.
2. Overload on the liver. The liver is a filter of sorts. It detoxifies our body, protecting us from the harmful effects of chemicals, elements in food, environmental toxins, and even natural products of our metabolism, including excess estrogen. Anything that impairs liver function or ties up the detoxifying function will result in excess estrogen levels, whether it has a physical basis, as in liver disease, or an external cause, as with exposure to environmental toxins, drugs, or dietary substances.
3. Chronic Constipation
4. Exposure to estrogen—like compounds in our environment

Strictly speaking, it is possible that we are all—men, women and children—suffering a little from estrogen dominance, because there is so much of it in our environment. You would have to virtually live in a bubble to escape the excess estrogens we are exposed to through pesticides, plastics, industrial waste products, car exhaust, meat, soaps and much of the carpeting, furniture and paneling that we live with indoors every day. You may have on-and-off sinus problems, headaches, dry eyes, asthma or cold hands and feet, for example, and not know to attribute them to your exposure to environmental chemicals that are nearly identical to our own hormones. These chemicals are termed xenohormones. Over time the exposure will cause more chronic problems such as arthritis and pre-menopause symptoms and may be a direct or indirect cause of cancer.

The Riordan Clinic is a big advocate of prevention and therefore recommends having your hormones tested, especially if you have a family history of breast cancer or certain diagnoses such as fibrocystic breast disease, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, irregular menstrual periods, PMS, fibroids and infertility. A genetic screening to see if you may have problems with certain liver detoxification pathways can also be performed. These tests can help clinic physicians get a better picture and formulate a very specific treatment plan. Knowing your hormone levels is a first start. However, the nutrients you eat actually control how your hormones are expressed. For example, a deficiency of vitamin B6 may explain why your progesterone is always so low. This is why Riordan Clinic doctors like to look at the biochemical individuality of each patient seen at the clinic. This makes it easier for our doctors to make educated guesses according to presenting symptoms and past medical history. Actually knowing exactly what is happening in your body can help doctors condense your treatments, while at the same time, increasing their efficiency and effectiveness. This can lead to a faster journey back to optimal health.

You can start making changes TODAY in your lifestyle to reverse the estrogen dominance and reduce your risk of breast cancer. The following are some suggestions:
1. Increase dietary fiber. Bowel regularity can ensure excess estrogen is eliminated.
2. Use dietary supplements.
• Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)—helps overall immune health.
• Vitamin B6—helps conjugate estrogens in the liver to prepare them for excretion.
• Lecithin (a phospholipid) will promote bile circulation, which enhances estrogen’s excretion out of the body.
• Herbal Liver Support—milk thistle or a combo supplement. We carry specific supplements that have a combination of herbs and nutrients that support the liver detoxification pathways.
• Flaxseeds—the lignans in flaxseeds support breast and hormonal health. Lignan compounds reduce excess estrogen from binding to receptor sites such as in breast tissue.
• Calcium-d-glucarate—helps to deactivate toxic substances and excess hormones, encouraging their elimination from the body. It prevents the reabsorption of estrogens in the intestines.
• Indole-3-carbinol and DIM—a component of cruciferous vegetables— broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts—reduces the form of estrogen that stimulates tumors.
• Iodine—while under supervision by your doctor is helpful for fibrocystic breasts and ovarian cysts.

3. Perform aerobic exercise. Research shows that physical activity curtails overproduction of estrogen. However, if taken too far, exercise can abolish periods altogether, resulting in the dangerous condition of Female Athletic Triad. While women with this condition have  low estrogen they are still in a very estrogen dominant state due to the almost nonexistent progesterone levels.
4. Optimize your weight. Excess body fat results in conservation of estrogen. This may explain why overweight women are at lower risk for osteoporosis; conversely, they are at higher risk of breast and uterine cancer.
5. Eat a very colorful diet. See how many natural colors you can get in at every meal! Some specific liver cleansing foods are beets, carrots, artichokes, lemons, parsnips, dandelion greens, watercress, and burdock root.

Limiting environmental exposure to xenoestrogens along with implementing a proper diet, exercise and supplements can help reverse the syndrome of estrogen dominance and not only aid in the treatment of breast cancer but prevent its occurrence entirely.
Here is a list of common causes of estrogen dominance:
1. Commercially raised cattle and poultry fed with estrogen-like hormones.
2. Commercially grown vegetables that contain pesticide residues whose chemical structure is similar to estrogen.
3. Synthetic estrogens and synthetic progesterone (Progestin, Progesterone Acetate and birth control pills).
4. Exposure to xenoestrogen. Petrochemical compounds found in general consumer products such as creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfume, hairs spray and room deodorizers. Such compounds often have a chemical structure similar to estrogen and they may act like estrogen. They are fat soluble and nonbiodegradable.

5. Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen alone without progesterone. This increases the level of estrogen in the body.
6. Over production of estrogen from ovarian cysts or tumors.
7. Chronic constipation that causes the recycling of estrogen metabolites.
8. Stress, causing adrenal gland exhaustion and reduced progesterone output. Stress is one of the most frequently overlooked causes of estrogen dominance.
9. Obesity. Fat has an enzyme that converts adrenal steroids to estrogen. The higher the fat intake, the higher the conversion to estrogen.
10. Liver disease, such as cirrhosis, that reduces the breakdown of estrogen.
11. Deficiency of vitamin B6 and magnesium, both of which are necessary for neutralization of estrogen in the liver.
12. Increased sugar intake leading to a depletion of magnesium.
13. Intake of processed and fast foods that may be deficient in magnesium.
14. Increase in coffee intake. Caffeine intake, from all sources, was linked with higher estrogen levels regardless of age, body mass index (BMI), caloric intake, smoking and alcohol and cholesterol intake. Studies have shown that women who consumed at least 500 milligrams of caffeine daily, the equivalent of four or five cups of coffee, had nearly 70% more estrogen during the early follicular phase than women who consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine daily, or less than one cup of coffee.

Other therapies that we often recommend for breast cancer at the Riordan Clinic:

1. Intravenous Nutrition—vitamin C, magnesium, B complex vitamins, calcium, vitamin B6
a. This can be implemented before surgery, after surgery, during and post chemotherapy and radiation, and/or as a treatment alone.
2. Hyperbaric Oxygen a. Molecular oxygen must be present at the time of irradiation for maximal killing effect. Hypoxia reduces tumor sensitivity to radiation about three fold. Hyperbaric oxygen forces oxygen into all body fluid, including lymph, CSF, and interstitial fluid, even in areas that have reduced or poor circulation. After 1st exposure to oxygen, all cells up regulate their genes for super oxide dismutase to counteract the free radical formation and to protect themselves against oxidative damages. However, cancer cells do not up regulate their enzymes properly and efficiently; consequently, they are more vulnerable to oxidative damage. Furthermore, hyperbaric oxygen stimulates fibroblast cells function, allowing more proper connective tissue formation. With short-term use, oxygen constricts blood vessels and reduces swelling caused by local inflammation induced by radiation.

While awareness of early breast cancer detection is crucial, the most important concept to remember is that we still want to address the cause of cancer. While the actual cause has not been completely agreed upon, we all know that it is a combination of a lot of things: lack of nutrition, exposure to environmental toxins, emotional stress (loneliness, anxiety/worry, depression, and sadness), shallow breathing and lack of oxygenation, and a lifestyle that is all work and no play. Modern life is stressful, and all these stresses are ultimately leading to cancer and other chronic disorders. So remember to slow down, take some deep breaths, eat fresh, laugh a lot and HAVE SOME FUN!

If you are interested in learning more about environmental estrogen and its relationship to breast cancer and/or reaching optimal health, call the Riordan Clinic today at 316-682-3100 to make an appointment with a Riordan Clinic doctor.