Breast Cancer and the Link With Estrogen

Breast cancer and estrogen link will never be completely clear. Some studies of estrange use in the menopause show that therapy causes breast cancer, and some actually protection against breast cancer. It may be related to the timing of estrogen exposure, and hormone therapy prior to and within the first 5 years of menopause is the most likely to be associated with a new breast cancer diagnosis.  Editorials and commentary from journals and medical news sites have been flying around with accusations to try to explain the contradictory findings that sometimes we find that taking estrogen treatment causes breast cancer and in some studies breast cancer is actually prevented by prescription estrogen! The same claims are true for testosterone therapy in menopause, no real proven association, but biologically it is plausible that there may be an association between menopausal testosterone use and breast cancer. It's important to remember that for you to understand your individual breast cancer risk multiple facts have to be considered including, your own 'risk-benefit ratio' (the risks you may have of one illness off-set by benefits of the therapy), what other hormones and medications you have taken, have you had children, did you breast feed, do you have precancerous breast conditions, how long you have taken the hormones you took previously, and how long you have now been off hormone therapy! Your gyno also will consider what your mammogram looks like is it very dense, how many lumps you have had, your family history, if you are obese, do you smoke, and whether you have had children, and whether your have breast fed these children when thinking about your risk-benefit ratio. And that's just to name a few of the considerations according to V. Craig Jordan, PhD, DSc, FMedSci.,  Dr. Jordan, scientific director and vice chairman of oncology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center of Georgetown University, Washington, DC. and he has been quoted to say that women who haven't taken estrogen for a long time could have natural cell death of breast cancer cells induced by estrogen use. Most breast cancer cells die if you initially take away estrogen, in women not permanently cured of any breast cancer cells in their body cells will emerge (like getting resistant infection!) that will grow with just a bit of estrogen use. After a given time period when cells once deprived of estrogen, these cells will  respond differently to estrogen. Apparently the same phenomenon is seen with the anti-breast cancer drugs themselves, not just estrogen, so that we see this same response to medications like tamoxifen and raloxifene and the armoatase inhibitors. So if you are confused, no worries, it's confusing, and important to gab with your gyno on what is going to be best for you, and as breast cancer awareness month approaches, think of what you can do to improve your breast health.


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