A new study was published today that helps to shed light on the association between sex hormone imbalance and breast cancer and how the use of balanced, low levels of bioidentical sex hormones may be protective against breast cancer growth.
Researchers found that when low levels of bioidentical hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) are given to mice with breast cancer their tumors grew more slowly than the control mice. Most oncologists would say that these results seem counterintuitive since the majority of breast cancers are stimulated by excess estrogen. So, what might explain what is happening?
If these results can be replicated in another study I will throw out one hypothesis. Perhaps, when low levels of bioidentical hormones are administered to the mice in a balanced ratio (mimicking normal, physiologic levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) an anticancer hormonal environment is established so that the tissues become less conducive to cancer growth and the cancer cells themselves actually do not have the relative excess of estrogen to signal them to grow. Perhaps this balanced ratio of these hormones is anticancer.
What do you do with this information for the time being? Since this is a preclinical study in mice I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions yet. Taking bioidentical hormones if you have a history of a hormone-sensitive cancer is generally not advised, but stay tuned as these and future studies may lead to changes in our dogma on this issue.
Taking another leap forward from here, we know that chronic stress causes the main precursor adrenal hormone (pregnenolone) to these 3 sex hormones to get shunted into producing cortisol through a process called “pregnenolone steal” (see graphic below.) This process leads to an imbalance and lower levels of the sex hormones. Might this lead to an increased risk of cancer growth? Many integrative oncologists suspect that chronic stress and cancer are associated. So, if you can reduce chronic stress (and adrenal fatigue) you might be able to reverse the “pregnenolone steal” process and redirect this hormone to make the sex hormones in physiologically balanced amounts…and reduce your risk of cancer growth.
Clearly more research is going to have to be done to get more clarity of this fascinating question.