Monday, October 8, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Estrogen Dominance and Breast Cancer

It is really hard for me to separate all of the topics regarding breast cancer into different blog posts because the more I learn about some of these issues the more it becomes clear that they are all interconnected. Today I’d like to talk about the issue of estrogen dominance. It is a problem that is causing widespread health issues amongst women and needs to be addressed. But first let’s talk about the role of sex hormones in the body.
Estrogen vs. Progesterone
Estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that are very important to health and balance of the body. During a typical menstrual cycle, large quantities of estrogen are released right before ovulation, which cause another hormone, LH to surge, releasing an egg and starting ovulation. The follicle which the egg was released from, becomes the corpus letum and produces large amounts of progesterone. When the egg does not become fertilized, the egg dies, hormones drop and menstruation begins. The menstrual cycle is a complex balancing act of hormones and if anything is out of balance the whole system becomes compromised. Below is a chart that states the actions of estrogen and progesterone. You can see how a balance of both hormones is needed to maintain health.
Causes the endometrium to proliferate
Maintains secretory endometrium
Causes breast stimulation that can lead to cancer
Protects against fibrocystic breasts and breast cancer
Increases body fat
Helps us use fat for energy
Increases endometrial cancer risk
Prevents endometrial cancer
Reduces vascular tone
Restores vascular tone
Increases blood clot risk
Normalizes blood clot risk
Restrains osteoclast function slightly
Promotes osteoblast function leading to bone growth
Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance is one of the most common hormonal imbalances in today’s culture and I believe it is one of the main causes of breast cancer. Estrogen dominance is the result of too much estrogen in the system causing the ratio of estrogen to progesterone to be skewed. This can be the result of too much estrogen in the system or too little progesterone.
Best Way to Tell if you are Estrogen Dominate
The easiest ways to determine if a woman is estrogen dominant is to take a look at her menstrual cycle. If your menstrual cycle is shorter than 25 days (estrogen excess) or longer than 30 days (progesterone deficiency) then you double your risk of getting breast cancer. The chart below can help you determine if estrogen dominance is an issue:
Cycle Length
PMS Symptoms
Normal Menstrual Cycle
28 Days
Regular flow with no clots for 7 days
No symptoms
Estrogen Dominance
Shorter than 25 Days
Heavy flow for 7-14 days with clots and brown spotting before the flow starts
Cramps before flow starts, bloating with mood swings being snappy and angry, enlarged and sensitive breasts and food cravings
Progesterone Deficiency
30-50 Days
Heavy for 3-4 days
Cramps before period starts, lumps and fibrocystic breasts, no bloating
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
There are many reasons that an individual may be estrogen dominant and the main ones are listed below.
  • Xenoestrogens: also known as environmental estrogens and endocrine disrupters, these are chemicals from outside of the body that act like estrogen inside the body. These chemical include pesticides, herbicides, cleaning products, cosmetics, paints, carpets, plastics and lots of other products and chemicals.
  • Poor Liver Function: If your liver is not functioning optimally it can’t process and break down estrogen.
  • Constipation: If you are not pooping at least 2 times a day, all of the hormones and toxins that are supposed to be excreted are being reabsorbed in the colon.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy: Essentially what hormone replacement therapy is doing is adding more estrogen to the body during times of menopause. I would like to state that menopause is a natural progression of a woman’s life and if you are experiencing symptoms of menopause, it is often due to a Yin deficiency which can be alleviated by herbs that tonify yin like anemarrhena (Anemarrhena asploidis) or ophiopogon (Ophiopogon japonicus)
Conditions Associated with Estrogen Dominance

Estrogen dominance can be linked to many health conditions, including:
  • Breast cancer
  • Fibrocystic breasts and ovarian cysts
  • Endometriosis
  • Accelerated aging
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstruation as shown by the chart above
  • In men estrogen dominance is linked to prostate and breast cancer, infertility, low sperm count, moobs (man boobs)
Ways to Decrease Estrogen Dominance
  • Increase consumption of Cruciferous Veggies: vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, brussel sprouts, and cabbage contain indole-3-carbinole that helps the body detoxify environmental estrogens.
  • Increase your consumption of phytoestrogens
  • Improve your Liver Function: with bitters, lemon water, milk thistle and dandelion
  • Supplement with DIM
  • Avoid exposure to xenoestrogens
Overall estrogen dominance is a huge issue in today’s culture and it needs to be addressed. I feel that is one of the main causes of breast cancer and other issues that are associated with the female reproductive system. The sad part is that there is no “awareness” whatsoever about this topic. My next blog posts will talk more in depth about some of the causes and solutions to estrogen dominance and breast cancer. So stay tuned to this month because it is “Breast Cancer Prevention Month.”
Weed, S. S. (1996). Breast cancer? Breast health!: the wise woman way. Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub.
Cohen, B. J., Taylor, J. J., & Memmler, R. L. (2009). Memmler's structure and function of the human body (9th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott William & Wilkins.


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