BREAST HEALTH TIP #24: Avoid Pharmaceutical Hormones
When considering methods for birth control or for alleviating menopausal symptoms - it is wise not choose pharmaceutical medications first. Research shows that long term use of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy may significantly increase the risk of breast cancer. There are many effective nonpharmaceutical approaches that work just as well, without the health risks.
Pharmaceutical drugs are fraught with side effects, some mild and some deadly. The number of reported in-hospital adverse drug reactions to prescribed medications is estimated to be about 2.2 million per year. About 783,000 people die each year in the United States alone from iatrogenic causes (that is, health problems inadvertently induced by a medical treatment or diagnostic procedure). Of those deaths, about 106,000 are from side effects of a drug or combination of drugs.
One horrifying "side effect" of certain pharmaceutical medications is breast cancer. Until recently, little attention was given to the frightening increased risk of breast cancer associated with such medications as birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), certain heart medications, various antidepressants, and many other pharmaceuticals. Each of these medications has specific ways that it increases your risk of breast cancer. Most drugs are metabolized in the liver, and scientists have found that they may interfere with the liver’s ability to detoxify carcinogens. When your liver function is impaired, more carcinogens remain in your body, and thereby increase your risk of many different cancers, including breast cancer. That’s why your Warrior Goddess prefers that you supply her with foods, herbs, and other natural approaches, rather than pharmaceuticals whenever possible.
In a laboratory study published in 1987 in the journal Cancer, researchers found that the combination of estrogen and progestin (found in many birth control pills) stimulates breast cells to grow and divide and accelerates the growth of breast cancer. In another study, published more than twenty years ago in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, premenopausal women who used the pill after age forty were found to have a 50 percent increased risk of breast cancer. More recent studies show that women who have a mother or sister with breast cancer and take the pill long term also have a significantly increased risk of breast cancer.
HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY (HRT)
To combat perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, Western medicine developed synthetic hormones. Drug companies promoted hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as the long-sought-after fountain of youth. HRT, women were told, lowered the risk of heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis. But recent studies, including the Women’s Health Initiative Study, have found that the opposite is true: Women taking HRT have an increased risk of heart disease, strokes, blood clots, gallbladder disease, and invasive breast cancer. It is true that HRT does help to prevent osteoporosis, but not any more so than a little weight-bearing exercise and a diet high in calcium-rich foods.
Pharmaceutical companies, as well as many doctors, still downplay the level of risk associated with these synthetic hormones. But research published in the August 2003 issue of the prestigious journal The Lancet found that the risk was considerable.