Endocrine and Reproductive Cancer

I heard the most amazing news release recently. Did you know there is a 10-year Federal plan for improving the health of America by the year 2000? A key element of the plan is "preventative" health care. In reporting on the success of the program at the 5-year mark, "preventative" programs are considered a success because more people are being screened at an earlier age for more diseases! Excuse me? When did "prevention" become defined as "early detection"?

[see longevity/optimum wellness]

The truth is America is facing the prospect of cancer becoming the number 1 killer by the turn of the century, outstripping cardiovascular disease, which is currently number 1. The three leading causes of death in America (when you include peripheral vascular disease, which is number 3) are diseases of lifestyle, and our health care system offers little or no lifestyle counseling, focusing instead on early detection.

I don't know about you, but this kind of doublespeak strains my brain. One of the conundrums we face in health care is that the average person thinks the words being used mean one thing, when in fact they have been redefined to fit the medical model. "Prevention" is a good example. "Healthcare" is another. What is currently called health care is, in actuality, "disease and trauma care." True health care - i.e., making sure your body is functioning well and your metabolism is optimal to avert the development of disease - is redefined as "maintenance care," and accordingly is deemed unnecessary and unreimbursable by insurance carriers. Think about it - it makes my head spin, when it isn't making me too angry to reason.

I'd like to focus on the prevention (in the truest sense of the word) of endocrine and reproductive cancers - breast, uterus and prostate. There is some interesting data available in the foreign research literature that hasn't received much attention in the US.

The current thinking in American medical circles is that these cancers can be related to fat intake. After all, the American diet is 40% fat (on average); and America has the among the highest rate of these cancers in the world. Furthermore, fat calories are empty calories which are otherwise devoid of nutrients. However, fat content is less important than the way in which fat interacts with other dietary factors. A study done in 1984 and submitted to the American medical journals, but which was never published until 1989, showed that breast cancer risk correlates to the following factors: an increased intake of fish oils (omega 3 oils) decreases cancer risk, while an increased intake of vegetable oil (omega 6 oils) increases the risk. Omega 6 oils are the "polyunsaturated," cholesterol-free vegetable oils which are advertised so heavily, despite the fad that they increase cancer risk. An increase in dietary fiber also decreases the risk of breast cancer.

Further information concerning the connection of good gastrointestinal health and hormone balance appeared in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry (Vol. 13) published in Great Britain. The research discovered that pathogenic bacteria promote the production of toxic estrogens in women and that "good" bacteria (i.e., normal gut inhabitants) promote estrogen balance within the blood stream. Therefore, having your bowel cultured and normalizing your digestive tract can actually decrease your risk of breast cancer.

Dr. Aldercreutz (a Belgian) has published over 250 articles in the last 20 years on the Western diet and hormonal factors. His research shows breast cancer is almost unknown in countries where the diet is rich in isoflavones, regardless of the fat level. Isoflavones are found in soy products; however, the glycoside linkages in soy products are unabsorbable by the human being. They must be metabolized by the normal bacterial inhabitants of the human digestive tract to become absorbable. Once absorbed, they act as hormone modulators, reducing levels that are too high, raising levels that are too low, and having no effect when levels are normal. In effect, they keep the hormone levels in a steady state, without extremes. Other researchers have determined that the higher the highs and the lower the lows, the greater the risk of reproductive cancer. So, these substances help our body regulate the very hormones we produce into a safe, steady-state level. Again, a healthy intestinal tract with the proper bacterial inhabitants is essential.

Another important, and over-looked, factor in protecting women against breast cancer is to assess a woman's estrogen status. The proportions of the different types of estrogen in the body is a good predictor of breast cancer risk. First of all, the body produces 3 different types of estrogen: E3 is estriol; E2 is estradiol and El is estrone. The body detoxifies E2 and El in the liver, converting them to E3. When the 24-hour urinary excretion of [E3 ]/[E2 + El] is less than 0.8, the risk of breast cancer increases. When it is greater than 1.0, the risk decreases. The reason is that the body is effectively detoxifying E2 and El, which have the greatest carcinogenic effect. Interestingly, the prescription product Premarintm is E2 and Estrace (also a prescription) is El. The Physician's Desk Reference contains clear warnings about the carcinogenicity of these compounds. Furthermore, Premarin is conjugated, making it almost impossible for the liver to detoxify. Natural plant-based estrogens (phytoestrogens) are E3, but are dismissed by the medical profession as ineffective because they are not "long-acting," i.e., more carcinogenic. I have found, however, that the phytoestrogens do handle menopausal symptoms (such as hot flashes, insomnia and vaginal dryness) quite well.

The key source of phytoestrogens is soy products. You can regulate your hormone production by your choice of diet. However, be certain that you choose high quality soy products. Textured vegetable protein (the most common form of soy) is useless. Soy protein isolate (the most expensive) is best. Several of the detoxification products we use at the RFHC contain soy protein isolate (Ultra-Meal and Ultra Sustain). Also, good quality tofu and tempeh are advantageous. In addition, women now have choice in the type of estrogen used for post-menopausal symptoms. There are some very effective, naturopathic transdermal creams available which contain only E3, estriol, and are derived primarily from soy products. At RFHC, we have routinely and successfully used these products for over a year now. The results have been excellent.

In February of 1995, the National Cancer Institute finally recommended soy products (phytoestrogens) to help regulate the female cycle and to protect against breast cancer. Have you read any headlines containing that information lately?

However, it is not just women who benefit from intake of soy products. Researchers have tracked levels of Prostatic Specific Antigen (PSA, a prostate cancer tumor marker) and soy intake in men. The finding was that the greater the soy intake, the lower the levels of PSA. It was found that isoflavones block the conversion of testosterone into its toxic metabolite. Furthermore, isoflavones were shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in culture.

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