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Estrogens: Which is Good, Which is Bad

Estrogen makes a woman feminine. It creates the soft contours of a woman’s breasts, hips and pelvis that prepare her for childbirth. Estrogen keeps the skin smooth and free of wrinkles. It prevents excess hair growth, and keeps the vaginal membranes moist. It enhances sexual desire, increases physical endurance, prevents osteoporosis and promotes a happy enthusiastic mood. As a woman ages, however, her ovarian function begins to decline, leading to a decline in the production of the estrogens.

A deficiency of estrogen will cause the thinning of your skin due to a decreased production of collagen, which will lead to wrinkles around the eyes and mouth. With decreased estrogen your breasts will shrink and sag, you’ll lose some of your feminine shape and your vaginal mucous membranes will become thin and dry. A deficiency of estrogen can also cause you to feel tired, irritable and depressed all day long. And last but not least, the declining hormones lead to vasomotor instability that cause the hot flashes, disrupted sleep, irritability and depression associated with menopause.

Synthetic Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Drug manufacturers have been making synthetic estrogen drugs for more than 50 years to combat these changes. However, in July 2002, researchers at the National Institutes of Health abruptly halted the nation’s largest study on HRT, because the study found that the long-term use of synthetic estrogen and synthetic progesterone drugs increase a women’s risk of breast cancer by 26%, her risk of a heart attack by 29%, her risk of stroke by 41% and her risk of blood clots by 113%. (Source: JAMA. 2002;288:321-333).

“Bio-Identical” Hormone Replacement Therapy

The ovaries produce three different Estrogens: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2) and Estriol (E3). The two most concentrated and most potent estrogens are Estrone (E1) and Estradiol (E2). They are the hormones that stimulate cell growth of the uterine lining and breast tissue associated with preparation for pregnancy. Because they stimulate cell growth they can also stimulate cancer cell growth. Both Estrone and Estradiol are now classified as carcinogens. You should test your estrogen levels to make certain these two are not too high.

Even “Bio-Identical” Hormone Replacement Therapy that uses Estradiol or Estrone can and does cause cancer if it gets to high, or if it is not balanced correctly with the appropriate amount of Estriol (E3) and Progesterone. I recommend that you avoid Estrone and Estradiol completely and make certain you have enough Progesterone, which protects against cancer and builds healthy bones.

Estriol (E3) Plus Progesterone Balance Harmful Estrogens

Estriol (E3), the good estrogen, selectively binds to estrogen receptor-beta (ER-beta), which inhibits breast cell proliferation and prevents breast cancer development. (Source: Postgraduate medicine, Vol 121, Issue 1, January 2009Endocrinology. 2006 Sep;147(9):4132-50. Epub 2006 May 25.)

Estradiol (E2), the bad estrogen, activates the cancer activating a protein known as bcl-2, which promotes cancer cell growth. It also decreases Tumor Suppressor Protein (known as p53). (Source: Ann Clin Lab Sci. 1998 Nov-Dec;28(6):360-9Int J Cancer. 2003 Jul 10;105(5):607-12)

Progesterone is a critically important hormone that does the opposite of Estradiol. It decreases bcl-2 and increases Tumor Suppressor Protein, which activates DNA repair and initiates programmed cell death (apoptosis) when DNA damage is irreparable.

Estriol (E3) produces a 30% reduced risk of breast cancer; Estradiol (E2) causes a 10% increased risk of breast cancer. (Source: Fournier et al, “Breast cancer risk in relation to different types of hormone replacement therapy in the E3N-EPIC cohort,” Int J Cancer 2005 Apr 10;114(3):448-54.)

In February, 2009, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that women who take synthetic estrogen-progestin combination hormone therapy for more than five years suffer a doubling of their risk of getting breast cancer and the risk doubles again every additional twelve months they continue to take the drugs. (N Engl J Med. 2009 Feb 5;360(6):573-87)

Dr. Hansen’s Rx: Use Estriol Only NOT Estradiol or Estrone! To protect against cancer nature designed the body to produce the third estrogen, known as Estriol (E3), which has been shown to be protective against cancer. A woman’s Estriol level goes way up when she gets pregnant and stays up while she is breast feeding. High levels of this estrogen protect a woman from the harmful effects of the other two estrogens during these periods. This is the reason women who have more children and who breast feed longer have a lower incidence of breast cancer.

Estriol has also been shown to not cause the excessive build up of uterine lining that is associated with uterine cancer. In fact, research indicates that low levels of Estriol place you at an increased risk for developing cancer. You should check all of your Estrogen levels periodically to make sure that they are in a healthy balance approximately equal to a ratio of 8:1:1, Estriol to Estrone to Estradiol, respectively.

Deficiency of Estrogen Excess Estrone & Estradiol
  • Thinning of the skin, decreased collagen
  • Osteoporosis
  • Wrinkles around the eyes and mouth
  • Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, droopy breasts
  • Disturbed/Unrefreshing sleep
  • Depression, irritability
  • Constant tiredness
  • Lack of sexual desire / arousal
  • Loss of feeling attracted to partner
  • PMS Breast tenderness
  • Acne
  • Migraines
  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Breast Cancer
  • Uterine Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
This entry was posted in Bio-Identical Hormones, Breast Cancer, Estriol, Featured Topic, Hormones. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Estrogens: Which is Good, Which is Bad

  1. natalie says:

    I was diagnosed with DCIS breast cancer in March and have been taking 20mg of Tamoxifen since June. In a recent blood test, my Estradiol was over 900! My integrative medicine doctor said to tell my oncologist (which I will when I see him at the end of the month). What worries me is that I just saw my surgeon yesterday for a follow up and she said she didn’t think there was a problem….she said it would make sense that it’s elevated. Love her as a surgeon but obviously she doesn’t know the good and bad about the Estrogens! After reading your article and others on-line, I’m nervous about an increased risk of a breast cancer recurrence. What do you think? Thanks

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