Oestrogen, or estrogen in the USA, is the female sex hormone. Text books will tell you that it is produced by the female ovaries and production declines to virtually nothing after menopause. Those text books are wrong.
Oestrogen is not a single hormone but a family of similar chemicals. Those produced inside the human body are called endogenous; those made outside are called exogenous.
Oestrogen is typically produced in females in the first two weeks of their monthly cycle. In the second two weeks it is counterbalanced by the hormone progesterone. Guy’s Hospital, London, ran two studies in the 1990’s and showed that where women had breast cancer operations in the second two weeks of their cycles, they survived more than twice as long as women having identical operations in the first two weeks of their cycle. Sleep is also a great natural balancer of endogenous oestrogen. Women with disrupted sleep (for example night shift workers, or airline hostesses) have greater risk of breast cancer. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland just under your brain about 90 minutes after falling asleep in a darkened room. It possesses the ability to regulate endogenous oestrogens in the body.
The raw material for oestrogen production in the body is fat. Oestrogen is not merely produced in the ovaries, but in stores of fat around the body such as those lying just under the skin. A little is produced in the kidneys. Cancer Research UK a few years ago estimated that levels of oestrogen had been increasing in women’s bodies by about two per cent a year over the last 30 years. When a women passes through the menopause nowadays her blood oestrogen levels merely fall to a level just below the threshold that stops her ovulating – some experts estimate this fall at 30 per cent. Today’s women have far more oestrogen in their bodies than in the past. Their periods start earlier in their lives and end later; they have less babies. But these statistics are not the main reasons. Even men as they age can now have high levels of oestrogen in their bodies, made from their fatty deposits and stored from the hundreds of polluting environmental chemicals they come into contact with daily.
The dangers of oestrogen for women and men:
As I have explained, an excess of oestrogen in the body alters the levels of all the other hormones in the body away from the primary balance nature intended. An excess in your oestrogen pool will cause imbalance and therefore eventual illness. But this article is concerned with cancer.
Oestrogen causes cancer in three ways, all of which have been clearly evidenced:
1. Oestrogen, in fact one in particular (oestradiol, or estradiol in the USA), can cause havoc in basic biochemical systems and pathways inside the cell. For example levels of sodium are increased, levels of potassium decline. This makes the cellular power stations less efficient, pulling in less oxygen and producing less energy. The waste by-products, sodium salts, are more acid than the potassium salts nature intended, so the cell becomes more acid. At best you have a sick cell, at worst a cancerous one.
2. Oestrogen has been shown to be able to keep stem-cells in their trophoblastic state, dividing in an extremely rapid, almost out of control state. In plain English: Stem cells are the cells you had when you were a very elementary foetus that transformed into specialist eye, heart, lung, brain cells. Stem cells stay all over your body throughout your life. They are the basic repair cells, rushing to sites of inflammation and damage. Wang and his team in America showed that some cancers are caused by the action of oestrogen keeping your repair cells in their elementary state, and not letting them transform into new stomach lining, brain or breast cells. Rapidly dividing cells in your stomach lining? Cancer is likely.
3. Oestrogen has also been shown to be capable of directly altering the structure of DNA, your genetic code, causing mutation.
Oestrogen drives about 70 per cent of breast cancers. It is now shown to be involved in ovarian cancer and uterine, or womb, cancer. Studies from Bristol University first showed its involvement in some colon cancers, and US research shows oestrogen behind some stomach, lung and brain cancers. So clearly, this is not just a female phenomenon. No indeed, studies from Australia to Singapore, culminating in one by Dr Thompson of MD Anderson in Texas showed that oestrogen could turn nice, safe testosterone in men into an aggressive chemical DHT. This drives prostate cancer.
Perhaps more worrying was a research study we covered in Cancer Watch showing 13 chemicals linked to developing prostate cancer – all were oestrogen mimics.
Not all oestrogens were created equal
As I said above, oestrogen is not one hormone but a family. All of this family have a similar chemical ‘end’ to their molecule and this ‘end’ can bind to receptor sites on the membrane of your cells, sometimes passing a message inside the cell, if the receptor is active.
One family member is the highly aggressive oestradiol. As I said above, if this binds to your cellular receptor sites it can create havoc inside your cells.
Another human endogenous oestrogen is oestrone. It is far, far weaker in its effects than oestradiol – about 40 times less so. Research has repeatedly shown that indole 3 carbinol (or I3C, from broccoli and cruciferous vegetables) can convert oestradiol into its safer sister. Indeed I3C can even ‘switch off’ the receptor sites.
But plants have oestrogens too. These are called phytoestrogens. Now, a number of commentators including Wikipedia and some oncologists get awfully confused about phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are exogenous, not endogenous oestrogens. But they are certainly not xenoestrogens. For a start, they are neither man-made or synthetic, but totally natural. The human animal is primarily a herbivore – look at your teeth. Do they look like those of a dog or a leopard? No, humans evolved in balance with the vegetation around them. It kept us fit and healthy.
Phytoestrogens are oestrogens in that they have the same chemical ‘end’ to their molecule that I described above. But, they are about 40 to 100 times weaker than even oestrone. Now, ask yourself this: A chemical is going to bind to the oestrogen receptor sites on your cells – would you rather it was oestradiol, or a phytoestrogen. There really is no contest. Give me the phytoestrogen every time. Women in South East Asia have up to 1000 times the levels of phytoestrogens circulating in their blood than a New York lady has. Cancer Research has produced a number of papers on their protective powers. Professor Trevor Powles who was the top man for breast cancer at The Royal Marsden even calls them anti-oestrogens because they protect your receptor sites from aggressive oestrogens.
Phytoestrogens are commonly found in vegetables, but particularly in pulses. Pulses provided about 30 per cent of our protein in 1900. Who eats them nowadays? But they were protective. Red Clover, the herb of Hippocrates and used in a number of Alternative treatments like the Hoxsey Formula, is an excellent source of a protective phytoestrogen, genistein and its use as a protector in cases of breast cancer has been studied at The Royal Marsden.
When women develop an oestrogen positive breast cancer, the standard treatment is a formula of 5 years on Tamoxifen, followed by 3 years on an Aromatase Inhibitor. The Tamoxifen blocks the oestrogen receptor sites on your breast cells, just as phytoestrogens might, and indole 3 carbinol can turn off. The Aromatase Inhibitor cuts your body’s production of oestrogen.
But what if the oestrogen causing your cancer was not being made by you? What if it came primarily from outside sources?
Of course, eating meat will bring the animal’s own oestrogens into your body, especially if those animals have been fed hormones to make them grow. But chemical sources can far outweigh this contribution. Xenoestrogens are everywhere; in our water, food, soil, and many of the products you know and trust in your family home. They come mainly from the petrochemical industry.
Colburn, Dumanoski, and Meyers identified 51 ‘families’ of endocrine disrupters in their book ‘Our Stolen Future’. The most common example of their damage is that of lowered sperm counts, hermaphrodite fish swimming off the coast of California, male babies born with diminished genitalia – such is the power of a female sex hormone mimic on the male population. But this is only the start.
Strong xenoestrogens like organochlorides are produced by petroleum hydrocarbons reacting with chlorine. They are everywhere.