The world of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) was turned upside down with the release of the WHI (Women’s Health Initiative) study back in 2002, which showed that traditional (synthetic) HRT increased a women’s risk of breast or gynecological cancers. This has led many in the medical profession to extrapolate that “Estrogen” causes cancers. But does it? All of the patients in this study and others like it were given synthetic hormones such as Equillin (an estrogen native to horses and the primary ingredient in Premarin) and Ethinyl Estradiol (a chemically altered form of human estrogen). In addition to increased cancer risk these synthetic hormones have now been linked to increased risks of blood clotting and heart disease. Research on Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) has shown no increased risk of blood clotting (if not taken orally), heart disease, or cancers and a very strong protective effect against osteoporosis. A bioidentical estrogen is one that is molecule for molecule identical to the body’s native estrogen.
There are three major estrogens in the human body:
- Estrone (E1),
- Estradiol (E2), and
- Estriol (E3).
When women are young and healthy they typically have higher levels of E2 (considered to be a relatively safe estrogen) than E1 (considered to be a riskier estrogen). As a woman ages, and specifically at menopause, E1 levels rise as E2 levels fall. It is likely this imbalance of the hormone levels that predisposes aging population to certain cancers. Estradiol levels are at their highest and estrogen’s in general are better balanced when women are in their twenties, a time in which the risk for disease processes is very low. E2 levels begin to fall relative to E1 levels, typically in the 40’s or 50’s which is also when we begin to see increased risk of many disease processes, especially breast and gynecological cancers. As estrogen levels fall even further, the signs and symptoms of Menopause (hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings, decreased sex drive, osteoporosis, weight gain, etc.) appear. Prior to 2002 this set of complaints at your doctor’s office would likely have generated a prescription for Premarin, Prempro, or other synthetic hormones which may control symptoms, but at significant price (increased risk of heart disease, cancer, etc.)
Fortunately there is a safer and very effective alternative “natural” or “bioidentical” estrogen. Bioidentical estrogen replacement has a superb track record in terms of symptom relief and prevention. Menopausal symptoms can be eliminated without the increased risks of blood clotting or heart disease. Reversal of bone loss can be accomplished at a rate 2-3 times greater than with the use of Fosomax. It can be replaced by rubbing crème or gel into the skin daily, taking pills (not recommended), or the most effective method: implanting tiny hormone pellets under the skin, which last from 3-6 months. As with all hormone replacement, you should only do so under the care of a direction of a licensed and trained physician after appropriate evaluation and diagnostic testing.