What is the link between estrogen and breast cancer? The hormone, of course, is vital to sexual development and many important bodily functions. Before menopause, estrogen is produced mainly in the ovaries. After menopause, it is produced mostly in fat tissue. Throughout both her reproductive and post-menopausal years, a woman is exposed to different levels of estrogen from various sources. Estrogen and breast cancer have at least some correlation. High levels of estrogen over long periods of time are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. A meta analysis of data from several different studies shows that higher blood estrogen levels in premenopausal women increases breast cancer risk. Women who have an earlier first menstrual period or a later menopause are more likely to develop breast cancer. Estrogen and Breast Cancer: Effect of Hormone Replacement Therapy Estrogen is sometimes prescribed to treat the symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats, sleeplessness, and hot flashes. Estrogen also provides the benefit of lowering the risk of bone thinning, or osteoporosis. That said, a large-scale clinical trial has was shown that the risks of hormone replacement therapy (estrogen plus progesterone) can be significant. Combined hormone therapy with estrogen and progesterone increases the incidence of blood clots, heart disease, and stroke. Moreover, prolonged exposure to high levels of estrogen increases the risk of uterine and breast cancers. Estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy has also been shown to elevate breast cancer risk, but combined hormone replacement therapy increases that risk more substantially. High estrogen levels encourage cell division in the uterine and breast tissues, and cells that are actively dividing are thought to have a greater chance of DNA damage. The more cells with DNA damage, the higher the chance of developing cancer. Factors that Impact Estrogen Levels Blood estrogen levels are affected by a number of variables. Some of these are under your control. You can regulate your blood estrogen levels by:
These action steps can help keep your estrogen levels in check, and help lower your risk of breast cancer and other chronic diseases. Additional Considerations There are additional measures you can take to combat overall cancer risks. These include:
Estrogen and breast cancer may be linked, but the keys to lowering your risk are education and engagement. Healthy lifestyle choices and preventive screenings are critical. Not every illness can be anticipated or prevented, but by focusing on wellness, you can embrace habits that will boost and optimize your ability to stave off disease.