Life Extension Magazine November 2013
Enjoy Estrogen’s Multiple Benefits While Guarding Against Potential Risks
By William Faloon
How Lignans Protect the Breast
A number of published studies indicate that dietary lignans may protect against cancer by favorably altering estrogen metabolism, inhibiting angiogenesis, and inducing cancer cells to self-destruct.90-92 The greatest support for a role of lignans in cancer prevention has been shown for premenopausal breast cancer.90
Researchers in New York assessed breast cancer risk and dietary lignan intake in more than 3,000 women, including about 1,100 patients with confirmed breast cancer and approximately 2,000 women who served as controls. The scientists determined that premenopausal women with the highest lignan intake had a 34% reduced risk of developing breast cancer.90
Scientists in Italy suggest a mechanism for the protective effect. Their research indicates that higher blood levels of a phytoestrogen called enterolactone—the primary lignan derived by the body from flaxseed—are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.93,94 Conversely, the researchers noted, “Median values of serum enterolactone were significantly lower in women who subsequently developed breast cancer,” leading them to conclude that the enterolactone “had a strong protective effect on breast cancer risk.”94
Scientists at the University of Toronto reported that flax lignans can slow down the growth of breast cancer in women.93 Thirty-two women awaiting surgery for breast cancer were randomized to receive a muffin containing 25 grams of flaxseeds or a muffin that did not contain flaxseed (control group). Analysis of the cancerous tissue after surgery revealed that markers of tumor growth were reduced by 30-71% in the flaxseed group, while the control group did not experience any reduction in markers of tumor growth. The scientists concluded that “Dietary flaxseed has the potential to reduce tumor growth in patients with breast cancer.”93
Lignans may also protect against endometrial cancer, a condition largely associated with prolonged exposure to unopposed estrogens (this means estrogen administered without progesterone).70,95 Researchers in California assessed lignan intake and cancer status among nearly 1,000 women in the San Francisco area and determined that women with the highest dietary lignan intake experienced a promising trend toward a lower risk of developing this carcinoma of the uterine lining.70 The relationship between lignans and endometrial cancer risk reduction was slightly stronger among postmenopausal women.70
Based on a lot of favorable publicity, health-conscious people are increasingly adding flaxseed to their diet for the purpose of obtaining the beneficial lignans. Highly concentrated lignan extracts are also available in dietary supplements.
Green Tea’s Anti-Cancer Effects
Green tea is rich in plant compounds known as polyphenols.96 The predominate group of green tea polyphenols is the catechins, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).96 Copious evidence supports a role for these compounds in preventing breast cancer. In laboratory studies, green tea polyphenols and EGCG have been shown to suppress the growth and invasion of human breast cancer cells.97,98 Of even greater interest, these beneficial compounds in green tea delay the appearance of tumors in experimental models of breast cancer and cut down on the total tumor burden (amount of cancer in the body) when human breast cancer cells are injected into laboratory mice.98,99
Other exciting benefits of green tea include inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) production,99,100 which cuts off the blood supply needed for tumor growth; down-regulation of estrogen receptor-alpha function in breast cancer cells;101 reduction of tumor invasiveness;99 and increased apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells.102
One experiment showed that EGCG, 50-100 mg/kg/day, added to the drinking water of female mice inhibited growth of breast cancer. After five weeks of EGCG treatment, the weight of breast tumors was reduced by 68% in mice consuming EGCG daily.103
But green tea’s benefits aren’t restricted to animal or laboratory models. An investigation found a 47% decreased risk of breast cancer in women who drank more than one-third cup (>85.7 mL) per day of green tea, compared to those who did not consume any green tea.104
The medical establishment questions the use of bioidentical hormones out of concern about cancer risks. Earlier in this article, we outlined persuasive data showing the anti-cancer properties of many specific nutrients.
When factoring in the potent anti-cancer effects that occur in response to consuming healthy foods (such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts) and supplements (such as vitamin D and fish oil), while avoiding carcinogenic foods (such as sugar and well-done meat), the argument that maturing women should forever be denied their full complement of natural sex hormones does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.
Estrogen does far more than ease menopausal symptoms. It protects a woman’s brain, bones, arteries, muscles, eyes, skin, and overall sense happiness and well-being.1,2
A number of studies show higher mortality rates in estrogen-deficient women under age 60.108,109
Recognizing that even natural estrogen drugs stimulate breast cell proliferation, proponents of natural estrogen replacement advocate consumption of fruits and vegetables, along with supplements such as indole-3-carbinol (I3C),43,56,57 resveratrol,110,111 gamma tocopherol,112-114 melatonin,115-117 genistein,118,119 and green tea.97-103 The potential cancer-preventive effects of these dietary modifications and supplements are well substantiated in the scientific literature.
Most important, postmenopausal women with an intact uterus taking even natural estrogen drugs should use natural progesterone cream to protect their cells against the excess stimulation that estrogen can sometimes cause.5 An analysis of the scientific literature links lack of progesterone to the health problems doctors have related to estrogen.
When taking the right dose of topical natural estrogen (with progesterone), the many youth-restoring effects quickly become apparent. When estrogen is deficient, aging is accelerated.