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breast cancer

Breast cancer risk from using HRT is ‘twice what was thought’

A woman applies an HRT patch
 The study shows one in 50 women taking the most common HRT for five years will get breast cancer. Photograph: Phanie/Alamy

Study prompts medicines regulator to advise all women using HRT to remain vigilant

The risk of breast cancer from using hormone replacement therapy is double what was previously thought, according to a major piece of research, which confirms that HRT is a direct cause of the cancer.

The findings of the definitive study will cause concern among the 1 million women in the UK and millions more around the world who are using HRT. It finds that the longer women take it, the greater their risk, with the possibility that just one year is risk-free. It also finds that the risk does not go away as soon as women stop taking it, as had been previously assumed.

The UK’s drug licensing body suggested women who have used HRT in the past or use it now should be vigilant for signs of breast cancer in the light of the findings, while the Royal College of GPs urged them not to panic but to consult their doctor if they are concerned.

The research, published in the Lancet medical journal, says one in 50 women of average weight taking the most common form – combined daily oestrogen and progestogen – for five years will get breast cancer as a result.

That risk is twice what was thought, because it continues at some level for 10 or more years after women stop taking HRT. There are about 1 million women in the UK on HRT, 5 million in the rest of Europe and 6 million in the US.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) said women who are taking or have ever taken HRT should be vigilant and may want to talk to their doctor next time they have a routine appointment. They should ensure they go for breast screening.

“Women should be aware of this new information, so that it can be considered with the other risks and benefits of using HRT,” said Sarah Branch, the deputy director of the MHRA’s vigilance and risk management of medicines division.

“The menopause can have unpleasant side-effects and HRT products can be effective in helping to ease the symptoms. No medicine is completely without risk, but it is important for women to be able to make an informed decision about the risks and benefits that are appropriate for them.”

The MHRA recommends women should only take hormone therapy at the lowest dose and for the shortest possible time that works for them. The study shows there may be no increased risk for the first year.

HRT has long been linked to breast cancer, and to a lesser extent to ovarian cancer as well. But the issue has been fraught with controversy, pitching supporters of HRT – including many gynaecologists – against the epidemiologists concerned about cancer risks.

The British Menopause Society and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have strongly defended HRT, which is very effective in alleviating the hot flushes, night sweats and other debilitating symptoms of menopause that can make one in four women’s lives miserable. They have disputed past studies linking HRT to cancer and claimed hormones have other health benefits, including protecting women from heart attacks and strokes, for which the authors of the new study say there is no evidence. HRT does help protect brittle bones, say the authors, but only while women are taking it.

The British Menopause Society rejoiced at the recent guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which its members helped write. Nice suggested the risks were small – although without quantifying how small. GPs have been urged to prescribe HRT to more women as a result.

“We really are concerned that many GPs have been saying it is not something you really have to worry about,” said Prof Valerie Beral from the University of Oxford, a co-author of the study. The scientists say the Nice guidelines should now be reconsidered.

Nice said it is aware of the new research. “We will be reflecting on this study’s findings and considering it in our final decision as to whether we will update our menopause guidelines, a decision on which we will publish in due course,” said a spokesperson.

Sir Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the Nuffield department of population health, University of Oxford, said they could now be certain that HRT is a cause of about 5% of breast cancers. The cancer risk increases with the length of time women are on hormones and the cancers tend to be oestrogen receptor-positive, which means they are driven by oestrogen. Women who are given drugs that dry up their oestrogen supply – like tamoxifen – get high protection against the tumours returning.

“These are cause and effect relationships,” said Peto. “It is not just an association that exists, because the menopausal hormone therapy is causing the increase in breast cancer.

“The big problem is how to describe the one in 50 risk,” he said. They did not want to exaggerate it, nor did they want to play it down. “On current websites, [the risks] are misrepresented,” he said.

The paper, by the global Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer, pulled together data from 58 studies around the world on more than 108,000 women who had developed breast cancer after taking menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) – they say “replacement” therapy or HRT is a misnomer and a marketing description.

In western countries, 6.3% of women of average weight will develop breast cancer over the 20 years from the age of 50 without any hormone therapy. The study found that rose to 8.3% among women taking the most common hormonal combination – oestrogen plus daily progestogen.

The odds were better (7.7%) for women who took progestogen only intermittently, maybe for 10 to 14 days a month. Those who took oestrogen only, because they did not need progestogen to protect from womb cancer after a hysterectomy, had a risk of 6.8%.

Women who are obese are at increased risk of breast cancer because their adipose (fat) tissue produces extra oestrogen after the menopause. The study found that taking HRT did not further increase their risk.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, said the longer-term effect of HRT might be an important consideration for women. “Taking HRT is a really personal decision, and it’s vital that everyone fully understands the benefits and risks, discusses them with their GP and is supported to make the decision that’s right for them,” she said. “Rather than causing concern, we hope [the findings] will help anyone considering HRT treatment to make an even more informed decision.”

Other scientists said the study was well conducted. Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, called it “a very careful, thorough, excellent piece of research”. Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, called it “a tour de forcein what has been done and the way it has been done – the findings cannot be dismissed”.

But the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, in a joint statement with the British Menopause Society, said the findings were in line with the Nice guidelines that showed a “small increased risk”.

“Women and doctors should be reassured that the findings of this study do not add anything new in terms of the effects of hormone replacement therapy. Research shows that, for most women, HRT helps to manage menopausal symptoms and is safe,” said gynaecologist Prof Janice Rymer, the vice-president of the college.

“Women must be informed of the small increase in risk of breast cancer so they can weigh this up against the benefits that they may have from taking HRT. Every woman experiences the menopause differently and symptoms vary. These can be extremely debilitating and have a significant impact on a woman’s physical and psychological health, career, social life and relationships. Unfortunately, many women are still suffering in silence and are reluctant to seek advice and support due to concerns around the risks of breast cancer associated with HRT.”

The Royal College of GPs urged patients not to panic and to carry on taking their HRT, and GPs to carry on as normal “until clinical guidelines recommend otherwise. If a patient is concerned about her HRT prescription, she should discuss it with her GP at her next routine appointment.”

New research links excessive oxalates to breast cancer

by: Dr. Veronique Desaulniers |

oxalate-test

Information about little-known compounds called oxalates can be confusing and conflicting. They are often equated with the “bad” substances in foods but, in reality, oxalates are neither good nor bad. They can become problematic, however, when too many of them accumulate in the body.

When there’s too many oxalates – they can overwhelm the kidneys and lead to kidney stones and immune deficiency. Plus, according to a recent study, high levels of oxalate in the mammary area has been linked to breast cancer tumor growth as well.

Most oxalates are formed by the body itself

Oxalates (COOH), or oxalic acid, are strongly acidic substances that help both plants and animals in metabolization. About 60% to 80% of oxalates are formed by the body’s functions themselves. The other 20 to 40% of oxalates come from food.

Most fruits and vegetables contain a small amount of oxalatic acid and they are found in the leaves of plants as opposed to the roots, stalks and stems. The following foods contain a high amount of oxalates overall:

  • Rhubarb
  • Chocolate
  • Spinach
  • Beet greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Some nuts, especially almonds, cashews and peanuts
  • Some berries, especially gooseberries
  • Lemon and lime peel
  • Some grains and pastas (except brown rice)
  • Some legumes, especially navy beans, black beans and soybeans
  • Okra
  • Parsley

How are oxalates linked to breast cancer?

Oxalates are oxidizing substances. As such, they are extremely volatile and can be damaging to tissue in large amounts. Oxalate crystals cause the formation of kidney stones which can block the flow of urine and lead to kidney infection and bladder cancer.

These crystals are also razor sharp and can cause direct damage and long-lasting inflammation to whatever internal tissues they come into contact with. Oxalate-iron crystals can lead to iron depletion. When calcium-oxalate crystals form, they can lodge in internal organs and in bone. As they grow, they will crowd out bone marrow leading to immune deficiency and anemia.

Did you know?  The liver is the most important detoxifying organ in the body.  When the liver can’t effectively neutralize and dispose of toxins, they accumulate in the body.  Excess oxalates also have the ability to chelate heavy metals. Unlike other chelators, however, oxalates trap metals like mercury and lead in tissues. Excess oxalate has been linked to fibromyalgia, vulvodynia (vulvar pain), digestive disorders and autism.

The most startling new connection between excess oxalates and disease has to do with breast cancer, however. A 2015 study conducted by the National University of Cordova in Argentina compared the oxalate levels of breast cancer tumor tissue and regular breast tissue. They found that “all tested breast tumor tissues contain a higher concentration of oxalates than their counterpart non-pathological breast tissue.”

The researchers also discovered that oxalatic acid caused tumor proliferation and stimulated the expression of pro-tumor genes. Surprisingly, proliferation did not happen when oxalate was injected into the backs of laboratory mice. This indicates that high oxalate levels do not induce cancer tumor growth in all types of tissue.

Three ways to reduce your oxalate levels

1. Obtain calcium from natural foodsCalcium has an interesting relationship with oxalates.  Approximately 5-15% of the world population will develop some form of kidney stone. Of those, 80% will be calcium-oxalate stones. When calcium is combined with foods that are high in oxalates within the intestines, the two together form an oxalate-calcium crystal that the body cannot absorb.

When this happens, a “stone” is formed that will make its way to the kidneys to eventually be eliminated in the urine. The presence of oxalate-calcium crystals which can block urine flow and cause kidney infection can also lead to a higher risk of renal, pelvis and bladder cancers.  These same kinds of crystals can also form in the lungs, nerves, brain, bones, blood vessels and joints.

Does this mean that if you are prone to kidney stones, you should limit calcium intake?  Not necessarily. Research conducted on vegetarians found that they did not have higher than normal rates of calcium deficiency nor osteoporosis caused by oxalate interference.

In fact, according to a 2014 study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, vegetarians had a lower rate of kidney stones than meat eaters did. Those who consumed calcium supplements on a regular basis, however, have shown time and again to have higher rates of kidney stones.  Calcium supplementation has also been linked to both prostate and breast cancer. Stick to natural and preferably vegetable and fruit-based sources of calcium to avoid both kidney stones and cancer.

2. Be aware of your protein intake, especially if you are a meat-eater: Be cautious when it comes to the protein, especially if it is derived from meat and dairy. Oxalates are produced from amino acids in the liver.

3. Maintain good intestinal flora: According to research, some individuals have a physiology that is prone to higher levels of oxalate uptake in the digestive tract (thus, a higher risk of kidney stones). Although there is evidence to suggest that hereditary disposition plays a role for some people, there is also a strong link between kidney stone formation and disorders of the digestive system, such as inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut and Crohn’s.

Could oxalate hyper-absorption have more to do with extreme gut flora imbalance than genetics? The jury is still out on that one. What is known, however, is that it is the job of specific flora, in particular, certain species of Oxalobacter formigenes, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacteria, to process oxalatic acid and prepare it for absorption. Currently, there are several studies underway which focus on the role of oral probiotics in this process.

Let food work for you to keep oxalate levels in balance

Remember that problems only emerge when there is an excess of oxalates in the system. The standard American diet contributes to oxalate overload but you can also keep it in check through being proactive with prevention. Eating anti-oxidant rich food, consuming citrate-rich lemon and lime juice (which experts say can help prevent calcium-oxalate kidney stones), staying hydrated and watching your salt intake are other ways to keep kidney stones in check.

Also, don’t let fear of kidney stones prevent you from getting adequate amounts of vitamin C . One of the ways that oxalates are formed is through conversion from vitamin C. However, studies thus far have been inclusive as to whether high vitamin C intake actually leads to increased oxalate production.

Dense Breasts and Breast Cancer: Is There a Link?

densebreast_breastcancer

In 2003, Dr. Nancy M. Cappello got her regular mammogram, and a clean bill of health. But six weeks later, her doctor felt a lump in her breast during a physical exam. Another mammogram did not see the lump, but a subsequent ultrasound did. Cappello was shocked to discover that she had stage 3C Breast Cancer which had spread to 13 lymph nodes. Her doctor explained that because she had a condition called “Dense Breasts,” the lump could not be detected through mammography.

What Is Dense Breast Syndrome?

 “Dense Breasts” or “Dense Breast Syndrome (DBS)” indicates breasts that have more glandular and supportive tissue than fatty tissue. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 4 in 10 women have scattered areas of dense tissue, roughly 4 in 10 women have mostly dense tissue, and about 1 in 10 women have breasts that are extremely dense.

It was once believed that dense breast syndrome was mostly hereditary. Now there is some evidence to suggest that breast density may be influenced by lifestyle, including certain medications as well as hormonal changes.  Dense Breast Syndrome can affect young women in particular.

Does Dense Breast Syndrome Mean a Higher Risk of Breast Cancer?

mammography breast scan X-ray image

This is a tricky question. According to conventional medicine, the answer would be yes. However, investigations thus far have been solely based on analysis of mammography screenings over time. When breast tissue is denser, it is harder for tumors to be detected by mammography x-rays.

For example, a 2018 Norwegian study of over 100,00 individuals aged 50 to 69 found that “screening examinations of women having dense breasts showed higher rates of recall and biopsy, and higher odds of screen-detected and interval breast cancers than women with non-dense breasts.”

The main take away of this statement can be that if a person relies on mammography alone to check for Breast Cancer, there is a good chance that it will go unnoticed. Unfortunately, women with Dense Breasts are also exposed to more mammograms and biopsies than those who don’t have the condition. A little less than half of the states in the U.S. require that doctors encourage those with dense breast tissue of any level be scheduled for additional mammography exams as well as other imaging procedures such as PET, MRI and ultrasound.

Mammography screening, if used as a stand alone tool,  simply cannot fully provide very accurate and very early detection . While no screening method is 100% accurate, thermography uses heat and light to detect physiological changes in the breast tissue, that could potentially be cancerous approximately six to eight years before any palpable mass may appear. Sadly, Dr. Nancy Capello passed away at the very young age of 66.  But she has left a legacy of information about the challenges with Dense Breasts. 

Changing Laws and Changing Times

From 2003 until her death last year, Cappello would lead the charge for legislation concerning Dense Breasts. A large part of her passion was education. This included the creation of her website,AreYouDense.org. Dr. Cappello also changed the law in her home state of Connecticut and elsewhere. In many states, it is now required that women be informed if they have DBS. It is also mandatory for insurance companies in many states to cover ultrasound screening for them in particular.

That being said, the jury is still out as to whether having DBS in itself can raise risk the of Breast Cancer. 

What does all this mean for you? It means you should take a proactive stance in relation to your Breast Health. Consider including Thermography as a breast assessment tool, and identify any change of function in the breast tissue years before a lump is discovered. This information can allow you to restore your Breast Health by working with a qualified therapist. Learn how to do a proper and regular breast self-exam and become familiar with your own breasts.

Is There a Link Between Hormonal Imbalance and Breast Cancer?

Is There a Link Between Hormonal Imbalance and Breast Cancer?

There is a clear increase in a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer as they age, in particular once they get into their 40′s, 50′s and beyond. Why would there be such an increase in breast cancer rates in women at this age? What is the significance of this time in a woman’s life?

Hormone Imbalances and Estrogen Dominance

During this time, a woman is likely experiencing hormonal imbalance as she enters peri-menopause, and eventually menopause. The primary reasons for this imbalance are:

  • declining levels of progesterone that occurs with aging, surgical removal of the ovaries or excessive stress (high cortisol equals low progesterone)
  • higher levels of estrogen as the body struggles make an egg from aging ovaries
  • accumulation of environmental hormone disruptors in the body from a lifetime of exposure to pollutants, plastics and pesticides (all contain xeno-estrogens)
  • use of oral contraceptives (past or current)
  • synthetic hormone replacement therapy
  • an unhealthy digestive tract (where hormones are removed from the body)

These factors can contribute to an excess of estrogen in the body known as Estrogen Dominance.  Since estrogen stimulates cell growth, a predominance of it, especially in the absence of adequate levels of progesterone, presents an increased risk of cancer, particularly in the breast.

Don’t get me wrong, estrogen is not a demon!  It is all about balance.  To better understand, let’s explore the relationship of estrogen to cell growth, particularly in the breast.  Humans produce three types of estrogen: Estrone, Estradiol and Estriol.  Each has a different effect on breast tissue:

  • Estradiol: The most potent estrogen, equally stimulates and inhibits cell growth. In other words it is neutral.
  • Estrone: The second most potent estrogen, stimulates cell growth.
  • Estriol: The weakest estrogen, inhibits cell growth.

The key takeaway here is that having levels of Estrone that are too high in your body may result in more breast stimulation.  While higher levels of Estriol in your body results in less breast cell stimulation, and therefore, breast protection.

Basically Estrogen = GROWTH and Progesterone = NO GROWTH.  Without adequate amounts of Progesterone to balance the stimulatory effects of the estrogen go unchecked. This over stimulation is particularly bad for the breast tissue.

Know The Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance:

  • Unwanted weight gain/inability to lose weight
  • Premenstrual weight gain/bloating
  • Heavy/painful periods
  • Irregular bleeding
  • PMS
  • Tender and/or fibrocystic breasts
  • Mood swings
  • Low Libido
  • Depression
  • Low thyroid symptoms
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • High stress
  • Belly fat
  • Low immunities/susceptibility to illness

What Can I Do to Prevent / Treat Estrogen Dominance?

If your hormones are out of balance, adding in all of the separate hormones you are deficient in makes zero sense to me. Besides the fact that this is not how we’re meant to keep our hormones balanced, this can be extremely hard on the body, especially the liver and adrenals. Hormonal imbalances have 3 main root causes: a sluggish liver, stressed adrenals, and a copper imbalance (and these 3 are all connected too!).

 It is important to find a Therapist that takes the time to discuss all your symptoms and takes everything into consideration along with your lab results.  This will give the best picture of your unique situation and is crucial to establish the root cause.

Address any problems you have with your digestive system.  Imbalances of the gut flora can reduce your ability to clear excess estrogen from your body.  Eating a whole foods diet, supplementing with a probiotic and getting adequate soluble fibre are all essential to establishing hormone balance.

  • Reduce the use of pesticides, pollutants, and chemicals in your home
  • Eat organic foods that are free of hormones and pesticides
  • Maintain an ideal body weight (excess fat increases estrogen production)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Find ways to better manage your stress

Finally, consider having a Thermogram.  This is a form of breast imaging that does not require exposure to radiation.  Instead, it measures the heat released from the breast, which indicates areas of increased cellular activity/growth.  A Thermogram can identify problems in breast tissue years before they can be seen by a Mammogram or felt by your doctor.

For more information about managing estrogen dominance, hormone testing etc…. contact us Ph: 086 1623683 or e mail info@thermographyireland.ie

Can Co-enzyme Q10 Slow Breast Cancer Growth?

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By Dr. Veronique Desaulniersl

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a super antioxidant that has shown to have great benefits for overall health. But can this fat-soluble compound also help with cancer, including breast cancer? Recent research says yes!

What is Coenzyme Q10?

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is also called ubiquinol. It is a fat-soluble compound that is made inside you’re the body. CoQ10 helps convert food into energy. Because of this, it is found in almost every cell. You can also get it in smaller amounts through some whole foods.

As a powerful antioxidant, CoQ10 helps the mitochondria within cells stay healthy. It also helps prevent free radical damage. Too many free radicals in the body can lead to DNA damage and premature aging.

Deficiencies in CoQ10 may show up as fatigue, muscle weakness, high blood pressure and “brain fog.” On the other hand, studies have shown that CoQ10 can help with complications related to heart disease and diabetes. Some studies have also provided strong evidence showing that CoQ10 supplementation can shrink tumor growth.

CoQ10 and Cancer

COQ10’s benefits for those who want to prevent cancer and lead a healthy life are well known. More recent studies, however, have demonstrated exactly how CoQ10 can significantly slow tumor growth, especially in melanoma and breast cancer.

A 2007 study conducted at the University of Madras found that CoEnzymeQ10 supplementation helped shrink tumors through effecting cytokines, i.e. proteins which effect communication between cells. In particular, CoQ10 affects VEGF, or vascular endothelial growth factor, which facilitates tumor growth.

In their report published for International Anesthesiology Clinics journal, the researchers optimistically stated that the decrease “may suggest good prognosis and efficacy of [CoQ10] treatment, and might even offer protection from metastases and recurrence of cancer.”

In addition, a 2012 study published in the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies suggests that CoQ10 may have a protective effect against ROS, or Reactive Oxygen Species, within cell mitochondria. Excessive amounts of ROS can lead to oxidative stress and cell damage.

CoQ10 and Inflammation

Inflammation is at the root of most disease, including cancer. CoQ10 can protect against breast cancer metastasis through boosting the immune system and lowering inflammatory markers. A 2008 German study is just one of many which have discovered the positive effects CoQ10 on inflammation through its ability to downregulate C-Reactive protein. Clinical trials with individuals suffering from AIDS as well as cancer show that CoQ10 supplementation also significantly raises the level of Immunoglobulin G (IgG) in the blood. IgG is the first type of antibody to be released by the immune system during an infection. In a small trial, CoQ10 supplementation was said to increase the life expectance of cancer patients from between 5 to 15 years.

CoQ10 Declines with Age

Whether you have breast cancer or you want to prevent it, CoEnzymeQ10 is a solid substance to keep in your healing toolbox. This is especially true if you are over 40, as studies also show that endogenous-created CoQ10 levels tend to decline with age.

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