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The Truth Behind Hormone Replacement Therapy and Cancer Risk

Do Hormones Cause Cancer?

The Truth Behind Hormone Replacement Therapy and Cancer Risk

Wondering if hormone replacement therapy is the right choice for you, but hesitant due to fears surrounding cancer risks? In this episode, Dr. Christi addresses the facts and fiction surrounding hormone replacement therapy and its connection to cancer. Drawing from personal experience and extensive research, she provides insights into the origins of this misconception, examines key studies, and offers a balanced perspective on the role of hormones in men’s and women’s health.

What You’ll Learn

  • Learn the origins of linking hormones to cancer and how it influenced medical practices
  • How pivotal studies, including the Women’s Health Initiative, impacted perceptions of hormone replacement therapy
  • Understand the relationship between hormones, cancer risk, and the importance of personalized, balanced hormone replacement therapy

Ready to reclaim your health? If you’re seeking a compassionate physician well-versed in bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, look no further than Dr. Christi. Don’t miss out on future episodes packed with invaluable insights into optimizing your well-being. Like and subscribe now!

Listen to the audio version below.

Transcript: Dr. Christi: Breast cancer and every kind of cancer is very nuanced and multifactorial. So it’s very difficult to tease out all the factors that can contribute to the development of cancer.

Hi, I’m Dr. Christi. I’m in Houston, Texas. Thank you so much for listening to me today. I’m very grateful that you’re here and I hope you’ll like this content a lot. My goal is to educate and share with you what I’ve learned over my career and in my own life and what I apply to my own life. Please subscribe to this channel, like this and hit the bell so you’ll get notified when I drop new content. So I want to talk today about the question that I hear from patients all the time, don’t hormones cause cancer? So that is a big concern that people have. It has gotten ingrained in the medical atmosphere and patients and doctors will often default to that myth, that hormones cause cancer. So I wanted to tell you a little bit about my own journey, and then I want to talk about how that myth got started and what the studies actually show. So for my own self, my journey in menopause began at a very early age. I was only 40 years old. I began to have hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, brain fog, all the typical symptoms of menopause. My family, I think in general, goes through menopause quite early. So I looked at all the options, I talked to my own gynecologist, and my decision, looking at the literature and knowing the risks and benefits, I decided to go ahead and do early replacement with hormones, and I got on estrogen and progesterone very early. My logic behind that, besides the fact that I believe that hormones are very safe and are very effective and healthy for the body, is I decided, well, if it would have been safe for me to continue with my natural endogenous hormones until the typical age of menopause around 50, 55, why wouldn’t it be safe for me to continue replacing my hormones until at least that age? So I went ahead and got on them. Now I felt much, much better, but I did notice over time that I was still gaining weight and I was again, not feeling entirely well and strong. And that is when I began to replace my testosterone because testosterone is actually more abundant in the body than estrogen. And we began to feel the effects of declining estrogen in our forties as women. So that is when I really felt supercharged, felt amazing. I can see big differences in how I personally look.

Now, compared to 10 years ago, I think I look stronger, leaner, my skin looks healthier. I definitely feel better and have a much more full satisfying life than I had then. So I’m a big believer in hormones. I believe in the benefits of them. Now, the question that patients will often ask or are concerned about when I talk to them about hormones is do they cause cancer?

So let me talk about how that myth got started and why it took on such hold. There was a lot of hormones were prescribed starting in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. In the 90s, estrogen was the second most prescribed prescription. Every woman was placed on hormones. So they did that without really a lot of studies. So they wanted to go ahead and study it and confirm the safety and efficacy. And there was a very large study called the Women’s Health Initiative.

Now this study involved many patients over many years, and there was one arm of the study that showed one extra person that got breast cancer out of 1,000. So out of 1,000, one arm had four breast cancer cases and the other arm had five breast cancer cases out of 1,000. And so that showed, statistically, you could say a 25% increased risk, so that is when they said, we got to stop this. We can’t have, if it’s going to cause 25% increase of breast cancer, we can’t have that. So they stopped it and it got so much publication. It’s astonishing to think that one study got so much press in the mainstream media and doctors immediately started taking their patients off of hormones. Well, a few years later, the very authors of that same study, went back and revised it and said, estrogen does not cause breast cancer. It was this progestin, the pregnant mare progesterone, which caused the breast cancer. That is what caused it. And estrogen overall is safe and effective. Now, for some reason, their subsequent data was not enough to dispel the fear and the myth that had already taken hold.

So let’s look at what happened after that. So of course, people wanted to study that. And over the last 20, 30 years since that study came out, there have been numerous studies. Now I will, I need to say that breast cancer and every kind of cancer is very nuanced and multifactorial. So it’s very difficult to tease out all the factors that can contribute to the development of cancer. But I can say that over the last subsequent decades since that women’s health initiative, there have been numerous studies and none have conclusively shown significant and sustained link to increased breast cancer or breast cancer mortality. There have been studies here and there that suggest an increased risk, but the overall literature does not state anything definitive.

There are more studies that suggest that estrogen can actually prevent cancer. The progesterone seems to be a contributing factor that can stimulate the breast cancer. So we have to make sure that is balanced and that we’re not using the progestin. There’s definitely no link to more breast cancer mortality or death from breast cancer. So the studies that suggest that there may be a slight increased risk of breast cancer, they don’t show an increased mortality. Now, what I do with my patients is not just estrogen therapy, I also highly promote testosterone therapy. In my own life, I have found testosterone therapy to be extremely powerful, as I mentioned earlier. I’m stronger, leaner, I feel better, I have a strong libido, I’m enjoying my life so much more than before I was on testosterone. And there are numerous studies that show that testosterone decreases the risk of breast cancer. So the big factor to hormone replacement therapy, in my opinion, is replacing the estrogen and the testosterone. Now, progesterone is needed for women that still have their uterus. I’m on progesterone. I use the safest form of progesterone in a pill format.

I use bioidentical hormones in my patients and in myself. I’ve been using that for many, many years and I’m not fearful at all about breast cancer or uterine cancer. Now, the factors that can contribute to increased risk of breast cancer that we know for sure are primarily obesity increased adipose tissue or fat cells. What happens with the fat cells is that they are very inflammatory, pro-inflammatory. Those fat cells are dying and releasing cytokines that impair the body’s ability to repair DNA damage. So our cells are always dividing and when the cells divide there can be errors in the DNA duplication. Those have to be repaired. And if the body is not equipped and healthy to repair that DNA, the risk of cancer goes up. So for someone that is really overweight, obese, hormone replacement therapy may not be the best answer until the weight can be normalized. Or the fat normalized. So the weight can vary depending on muscle mass. If someone could have a good muscle mass, they’re fine. They’re actually, they’re set up really well for hormone replacement therapy.

I do advocate strongly for hormones. I’ve seen the power of hormone replacement therapy in my patients time and time again. It’s transformative. I’ve seen it in my own life and those of my friends as well. But it must be balanced. You must have a physician that is skilled in balancing hormones, that’s checking levels routinely. It must be customized. And what I do with my patients is I really customize it to what they need, their activity level, their weight, their symptoms, their blood count levels. And then we monitor it very closely. This is not the kind of thing, in my opinion, that you just give a prescription. Now I would say for someone that doesn’t have access to custom bioidentical hormones, a prescription is better than nothing. But ideally, they should be balanced. And then in addition, they must be part of a healthy lifestyle. This isn’t a panacea. There’s nothing that you can take or do that is going to be better than a healthy lifestyle. I’m talking about eating well, plant-based, and exercising regularly, keeping your body fat at an acceptable level. As I mentioned before, the fat is going to aromatize the estrogen and testosterone and it causes inflammation and it makes it harder for your body to repair itself. And that is when we get an increased risk for cancer. I wanted to briefly touch on vaginal estrogen cream. Now this is something that I recommend to, I mean, so many patients every day. I hand it out like crazy because it is so good for your vaginal health and your bladder health, it has been clearly shown to benefit and to not increase risk at all. There should be absolutely zero fear in using vaginal estrogen cream. The studies are crystal clear that it is safe and that it is beneficial. And I’ve seen what lack of hormones does to women. I’ve seen it rack just so much damage on their body, on their vagina, thin sandpaper feeling, recurrent infections, UTIs, overactive bladder, needing pads, ultimately diapers and uncomfortable for their final decades. It’s not worth going through that when you can simply use a vaginal estrogen cream, a suppository, or get on endogenous hormones. So I’m a huge advocate for vaginal estrogen cream. Overall, the benefits of hormones far outweigh any risk, in my opinion.

Even if there is eventually proven a slight increased risk of breast cancer, I don’t think it’s going to increase breast cancer mortality. And the benefits are tremendous. Better brain function. It’s there’s a suggestion that it decreases the risk for Alzheimer’s. Better metabolism. So your body doesn’t gain all that fat tissue that can then trigger the inflammation that can set you up for an increased risk for cancer. More energy so you’re more active and productive and you’re feeling great. Less inflammation in your body. A better sex life because your libido is increased, your vagina feels better, and better skin. You’re better looking. So I’m a huge advocate for it. I believe they are safe. I do not think that the abundance of studies that we have suggest that hormones cause breast cancer.

And I highly encourage you to seek out a skilled physician who does bio-identical hormone replacement therapy and do a consultation. Look at the options and consider that. Thank you so much for watching. I’m so grateful for you and I’m grateful to God for all the abundance of knowledge and technology and skills that he has given us in this era that we live so that we can live more full, abundant lives. Be blessed and I’ll see you next time.