Estrogen and Cancer Risk

Recent research is showing that women with higher levels of estriol as opposed to estrone and estradiol are more likely to be long term survivors of breast cancer. Estrogens are made up of three components: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), and Estriol (E3). In a healthy woman who is still menstruating, estrone should make up approximately 3-5%, Estradiol 10-20% and Estriol 60-80% of circulating estrogens.  Estriol is considered to be the most protective estrogen, favoring healthy and young skin, preventing cancer, aides in preventing hot flashes and night sweats.  Estradiol has a protective effect for the bones, and cardiovascular system. Estrone, although beneficial to the body for balance, is considered an aggressive estrogen and has links to development of other disease when out of balance.

The metabolism of estrogens is incredibly important when it comes to cancer risk. When estrogen is broken down, it metabolizes into certain components via different pathways. The pathway that the estrogen goes plays a significant role in a womans risk for cancer development. If the estrogens metabolize down the “bad” pathway (16-hydroxyestrone) there is a higher risk of cancer development. If they head down the “good” pathway (2 hydroxyestradiol), the risk is significantly lower. It is possible to measure this metabolism by using a test that measures the 2/16 ratio. The lower the ratio is, the higher your cancer risk.

It is possible to correct a situation where estrogens are preferring the “bad” pathway. Nutritionally, one can eat more vegetables found in the brassicas family, such as, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, bok choy, mustard greens. Flax and Soy have also shown benefit to favoring this pathway. Supplementally, one can take the supplements DIM and/or Indole 3 Carbinol, which are extracted from the above mentioned vegetables. It is also incredibly important to increase antioxidant consumption. Women are not the only ones who benefit from the favoring of this pathway. Research has shown that men who consume these vegetables have close to a 50% reduction in prostate cancer risk.

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