Oestrogen Exposure and Breast Cancer Link
Breast cancer rates are on the rise with one in eight women developing breast cancer in their lifetime.
Many studies over the last three decades have looked at the effect that oestrogens have on the development and progression of breast cancer.
Oestrogen has many beneficial functions, among which it promotes the proliferation of cells in the breast and uterus for pregnancies.
Synthetic oestrogens or chemicals with estrogenic activity can damage genetic material found near receptor sites creating mutations and leading to uncontrolled proliferation of cells.
Oestrogen – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Studies show that 70% of all breast cancer cases have over expressed oestrogen receptors.
Oestrogen receptors are found inside cells in target tissue in both men and women. These receptor sites remain inactive until oestrogen becomes available.
When oestrogenic molecules enter the cell through the receptor sites, a series of events occur that eventually influence the behavior of the target tissue.
There are four types of oestrogen that oestrogen receptors respond to:
1. Natural oestrogens that the body makes (estradiol, estrone and estriol),
2. Plant phytoestrogens that are found in food,
3. Pharmaceutical grade synthetic oestrogens
The body metabolises oestrogen in two ways. In one pathway, it is converted into 16alpha-hydroxyestrone (16alpha-OHE1) and 4-hydroxyestrone (4-OH), both of which promote tissue proliferation, breast cancer, and oestrogen dominance.
Obesity, alcohol consumption, and toxic exposure can increase the levels of 16alpha-OHE1, and high levels of it are connected with increased risk and poorer prognosis of breast cancer.
The other possibility for oestrogen breakdown is a safer metabolite, 2-hydroxyestrone (2-OHE1) with weak oestrogenic activity.
You want to have a proper balance between these two metabolites, 2-OHE1 and 16alpha-OHE1.
There´s a category of chemicals called xenoestrogens and once these chemicals are in the body they mimic oestrogen.
These chemicals have the most effect on hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and endometrial cancers.
Xenoestrgens have been found to act synergistically, creating a cocktail effect in the body thereby increasing cancer risk.
Certain xenoestrogenic chemicals have been identified as:
Parabens – a common preservative found in cosmetics, deodorants, food products and pharmaceuticals. Resent research links 99% of breast cancer tissue contains at least 1 form of paraben. (1)
Bisphenol A – found in plasticisers in bottles and plastic cups. BPA is released in to the contained liquid especially if hot.
When we are exposed to BPA (even in low doses), growth-factor-receptor pathways that are associated with cancer risk can be activated.
A recent study at the Dartmouth University reported that heating food covered with a plastic wrap in the microwave oven had up to 500,000 times the minimum amount of xenoestrogens needed to trigger the growth of breast cancer.
Click here to find out more about BPA.
Pesticides & PCBs – Bio-accumulate in fatty tissue and consistently release in small amounts throughout the body. People who work in the agriculture industry, house cleaners and flights attendants are the most at risk of being exposed to these chemicals.
Pesticides can also be found on the fruit and vegetables – buy organic if you can and always wash your produce!
Xenoestrogens also have an effect on the health of men as well. International incidences of testicular cancer, undescended testes and hypospadias (in which the urethral openings on the penis is on the underside rather than the tip) are sharply on the rise; while the average male sperm count is dropping equally as rapidly.
Researchers have discovered that semen from the average man today has half the amount of sperm in it, and of poorer quality, than that of fifty years ago.
With all this in mind, it is natural to ask, what can a woman do to minimize her chances of getting breast cancer?
Prevention is the best way to treat cancer and learning about certain risk factors is the best way to avoid this deadly disease.
Firstly it is essential to reduce or avoid exposure to xenoestrogens, this includes increasing organic fruit, vegetables and animal meat.
Cutting out BPA by avoiding plastic containers, water bottles and cling wrap.
Enhancing Oestrogen Metabolism
An essential part of the maintenance of the female body’s delicate hormonal balance is the interplay of oestrogen metabolism, detoxification and elimination.
These processes are facilitated by hydroxylation, which is mediated by cytochrome p450 family of enzymes.
As I have talked about at the beginning of this article – genetics, excess body fat, poor diet, and environmental factors such as xeno-oestrogens, can all decrease 2-hydroxylation, leading to an imbalance in oestrogen metabolites, with undesirable effects from a higher overall oestrogenic activity.
Lignans in flaxseed, isoflavonoids in soy, indole-3 carbinol in the cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc. and omega-3 fatty acids (flax, fatty fish) reduce the amount of the carcinogenic oestrogen metabolite (16a-hydroxyestrone), and increase the neutral-to-favourable oestrogen (2-hydroxyestrone), thereby increasing the 2-OH:16 alpha-OH ratio.
Indole-3-carbinol is a naturally occurring compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
Indole-3-Carbinol positively impacts the forms and activity of oestrogens, through promotion of P450 enzymes that increase the 2-hydroxylation of oestrogen to 2-hydroxyoestrone.
I3C may also reduce the activity of other enzymes involved in the production of more potent oestrogen metabolites such as 16 and 4- hydroxyoestrone.
For more information on Indole-3-Carbinol click here.
Broccoli Sprouts For Hormonal Health
A chemical made from broccoli sprouts called Sulforaphane has been shown to help in oestrogen detoxification.
This effect is created by inducing Phase 2 enzymes, one of the body’s most important natural defence systems. Eliminating toxic waste materials reduces the likelihood of abnormal cells multiplying out of control.
This mechanism explains the link between consuming broccoli sprouts and reduced risk of cancer.
EnduraCell 100% Broccoli Sprout Powder induces Phase 2 detoxification enzymes to eliminate oestrogen safely.
Flaxseed or flaxseed oil should be part of everybody’s diet anyway, because it is among the few good sources of the essential omega-3 fatty acid ALA.
The lignans that are so helpful against breast cancer are found mainly in flax seed or flaxseed oil. Melrose Flaxseed Oil is a great way to get a daily serve of lignans and anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids.
Remember to grind flaxseed before use because if unground, it won’t digest too well. You can sprinkle on your breakfast or add to a salad.
Fibre Increases Oestrogen Clearance
Also, any excess oestrogen produced by ovaries is sent to be eliminated in the faeces, but if the bowel transit time is long, it can be reabsorbed.
Fibre, vegetables, fruits, exercise and anything that keeps the bowels moving well will therefore lessen breast cancer risk.
Final Research Update
Bra Wearing Habits
In a study by Singer and Grismaijer in 1995, 3 out of 4 women studied who wore a bra for 24 hours a day developed breast cancer compared to 1 out of 168 who wore a bra rarely or never.
The take home message from this study is that your first line of defence in preventing breast cancer is to severely limit how many hours a day you wear a bra.
Bras do not cause cancer but they may restrict the flow of lymph within breast tissue, thereby hindering the normal cleansing process of the breast tissue.
Many environmental toxins and pesticides that cause and promote cancer are “fat-loving” and so tend to reside in the breast tissue.
Lymph fluid carries away waste products, dead cells, and toxins.