Estrogen is one of the most abundant hormone in the body that significantly drives and regulates many physiological and biological functions. For the most part, estrogen encourages good health. There is, however, its darker side. As like most things in life, in order for estrogen to work for you rather than against you, moderation is key. Too little estrogen can cause many hormone related symptoms while too much estrogen can be just as bad, or even worse. When it comes to cancer risk, having too much estrogen can cause a predictable increase. So, in order to help prevent cancer, balancing your estrogen is a must.
How does Estrogen work?
The way estrogen works in the body can get pretty complicated. The main reason why most people have heard of estrogen, is because it plays a big role in women’s health, with lots of talk and focus on how it impacts a women’s menstrual cycle. Estrogen plays a significant role in male health as well, however attention is usually focused on the connection of estrogen as a female hormone. For many women, unbalanced estrogen can be a major cause of menstrual irregularities and menopausal symptoms. Both men and women have receptors for estrogen, so when estrogen binds to these receptors, estrogen positively impacts bone health, mental health, cycle regularity (for women), and libido, just to name a few. The problem arises, however, when the body has to try to deal with too much estrogen. And when it comes to the potential for cancer to develop and grow, estrogen can play a leading role.
Three Ways Estrogen Can Cause Cancer
Firstly, cancer cells have the ability to detect excess estrogen in the body. When too much estrogen is present, cancerous cells ensure they have an over abundance of receptors on their surface for estrogen to bind. As more estrogens bind, cancer cells become stimulated to grow.
Secondly, too much estrogen causes free radical damage. When estrogen is in excess within the body, it can damage the DNA within a healthy cell. The underlying cause of cancer cell development occurs when healthy DNA is damaged and passes its damage on to newly developing cells. As more new cells develop from previously damaged cells, the potential for abhorrent (or cancerous) tissue and tumour growth can increase.
Thirdly, estrogen is broken down in the body into estrogen metabolites. Some of these metabolites are considered beneficial and help modulate the effects of estrogen in the body (such as 2-OHE and 4-OHE), however estrogen metabolites such as 16-OHE, when in abundance, can promote the negative and cancer causing impacts and ramifications.
In most cases however, when estrogen plays a role in cancer, it’s likely the combination of all three scenarios that create the potential for it to grow.
How Does Balancing Estrogen Reduce Your Cancer Risk?
When you properly balance your estrogen, hormone (or estrogen) dependant cancers such as breast, prostate, colorectal, endometrial, and ovarian risk can be reduced. Research has found that excess estrogen can be a precipitating factor in the initial stages of cancer development, so reducing your overall estrogen to a healthy level is a very important goal. In reducing (or balancing) your overall estrogen levels, free radical damage to a healthy cells DNA is also reduced. In the case where cancer is already present in your body, balancing (reducing) your estrogen levels to a healthy state will essentially starve cancer cells’ estrogen receptors, eliminating the ability of these cells to grow. Lastly, by healthfully balancing your estrogen levels, you are reducing the potential of an overabundance of unhealthy metabolites (16-OHE for example) to build up.
Balancing Your Estrogen
Balancing your estrogen begins as a child. In order to promote a proper estrogen balance over time, plant based foods, estrogen balancing nutrients, weight control, exercise, stress modification, proper sleep, regular detoxification, and avoidance of xenoestrogens are key. Examples include eating organic vegetables (specifically cruciferous vegetables), managing and controlling your stress, and avoiding plastics and cosmetics that contain xenoestrogenic potential. Each intervention you include helps impact and reduce all three ways (above) that excess estrogen can promote cancer. Here at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc., optimizing hormones is one area of expertise. Whether it’s intervening after cancer has been diagnosed, or to help improve complaints about your menstrual cycle or fertility, addressing excess (unbalanced) estrogen is a must when it comes to reducing your short and long term risk of cancer.