For years, we've heard that hormonal drugs (like in birth control pills and menopause treatments, like conjugated estrogens) can be hazardous to women's health and spike breast cancer risk. But now, a study done by researchers at the Breast Cancer Oncology Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston shows that post-menopausal women who took estrogen alone -- thought to be safe and possibly even slightly beneficial in terms of cancer risk -- might have a problem if they're on the treatment for years.
The research tracked the health of about 60,000 nurses and found that use of any kind of hormones for 10 years or more slightly raised the chances of developing breast cancer. I hate to say it, but well, hello, YEAH.
This isn't that surprising. Taking something that your body is not producing naturally in a systemic way is probably going to have a negative effect in some form or another. I'm sure the women in this study weren't on bioidentical forms of estrogen or progesterone, which I could see making a big difference, being that your body actually identifies those drugs as closer to what it created pre-menopause.
But, that said, whether or not women choose to take hormonal drugs is a very delicate matter. It really drives me nuts when the medical industry gravitates to any singular formulation as the catch-all fix for all women. Because we're just not built that way. Similarly, there's not a one size fits all solution for menopausal symptoms. We each have very unique hormonal and genetic interplay -- even after menopause -- so it would stand to reason that we should all be treated as the complex beings that we are.
It's why I appreciate when doctors (usually naturopathic and holistic ones) make a point of checking where a woman stands hormonally before proceeding with any particular treatment or developing a preventative protocol. After all, too much of a certain type of natural estrogen in the body is known to elevate breast cancer risk. I actually found out just last year that my "good"-to-"bad" estrogen ratio was slightly skewed, so I'm actually on balancing herbs/vitamins (DIM and evening primrose oil) to rectify that.
It's no wonder that when women are being given a "one-size-fits-all" drug for years on end, disease rates rise. If we can take anything away from this research, it's that we need non-systemic, more individualized and holistic treatments to bolster our well-being -- during our reproductive years and well after.
How do you feel about hormonal drugs and the associated elevated risk of breast cancer?