What hormones cause cancer? A closer look at hormone disruptors by Sue Visser (Feb 2007)
Disclaimer: This information is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of disease, especially cancer. It is a compilation of interesting ideas that contribute to helping us understand more about cancer and the action of hormones in their complexity. What is involved in producing cancer and how can we prevent it? Are there effective natural ways to alleviate cancer? We need to continually ask these questions and keep abreast of the times. Over the years I have seen many die of cancer and find it mysterious that medical people have such fixed ideas about such an elusive subject. Surely all that money they spend on research would lead to the basic causal factors? Cigarettes and genes can’t be blamed for everything! I have managed to gather some of the basic concepts as presented by intrepid researchers of natural medicine. As such, a wonderful story has unfolded and I hope it helps to shed some light on the subject. Maybe it will empower you and help you to think for yourself, as I have done.
Estradiol is the real culprit. Specialists talk about unopposed oestrogen as a major factor in breast cancer. The most active hormone from the oestrogen group is estradiol because it exerts the strongest influence on cell division due to its role in reproduction. Estrogen receptor sites are different to other hormonal sites because they are not on the surface. They are situated deep within the cell, alongside strands of DNA that carry our genetic codes.
The estrogen group of hormones switch from the inactive forms: estrone and estriol to the active form: estradiol, constantly on these receptor sites. Genetic activity controls these cyclical conversions, but if faulty, estradiol dominates and causes prolonged cell proliferation. These effects of estradiol are duplicated by environmental estrogens known as Xenestrogens that are man-made. We are exposed to them via the air, foods, plastics, chemicals and cosmetics. Once in the bloodstream, they can latch onto specific estrogen receptors, called alpha-receptors. These sites occur all over the body and respond to the “divide and multiply” stimulus.
Normally, cells that divide too rapidly or out of control are stopped by the enzyme trypsin that comes from the liver, lest they form tumours. A foetus within the womb will only stop growing when it’s own little liver matures and releases trypsin. (Otherwise the baby would get too big!) Trypsin is critical for controlling the rate of cell division. The immune system constantly destroys faulty or damaged genetic material to prevent it from dividing and mutating. A healthy liver and immune system play vital roles in protecting us from cancer on a daily basis.
Cysts or layers of tissue can form around large toxic particles, clumps of cells bound by lectins or parasites as a natural defence mechanism to isolate these larger foreign substances from vulnerable areas. These cysts and growths are considered to be benign or malignant – it depends whether alpha-receptors bind with estradiol in them or not. If they do, cells start to proliferate uncontrollably and we call it cancer. However, when cells are dividing uncontrollably within hidden cysts, tumours and nodes where there is no bloodstream, they are not easily detected.
This hidden acidic environment is rich in undigested or fermented food particles and is starved of oxygen. These conditions favour the growth of cancer cells, especially if there has been damage to genetic material from carcinogens or the UV rays of the sun. In its advanced form, this type of mischief results in the tumour latching onto the bloodstream in order to gain more nutrients and also to sow its mutagenic seeds all over the body. If the liver and immune system are not functioning well, this can lead to the metastasis or a widespread form of cancer with usually fatal results.
In many cases of breast, cervical or uterine cancer, patients have excessive estradiol levels from careless exposure to birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. In cases whereby the liver is unable to break down or excrete these hormones, there is a higher risk of cancer. Then it is only a matter of time before estradiol unites with an alpha-receptor, producing another statistic in the book of cancer victims.
Ways to block the vulnerable estrogen receptors:
If the oestrogen alpha-receptors are blocked by other hormones that exert a weaker influence or have a different function, they help to prevent cancer. The alpha-estrogen receptors all over the body become vulnerable to inappropriate cell proliferation if steroid hormones like progesterone, dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) or oestrogen metabolites called estriol or estrone are in short supply. It increases the risk of causing what is known as the “open window” or an unprotected oestrogen alpha-receptor.
Oestrogen tends to dominate the hormonal hierarchy to the extent that excessive amounts can override thyroid function and also lodge onto other cell receptors. Progesterone, if activated or introduced into the system is able to displace wayward oestrogen and allow the body to generate higher levels of Dehyroepiandosterone (DHEA.) This beneficial, yet often ignored hormone is a natural steroid produced mostly in the adrenal glands. In addition to its cancer fighting properties, DHEA also improves the immune system, prevents and treats osteoporosis, improves blood sugar metabolism and is a mood elevator.
Progesterone is the precursor hormone for DHEA, oestrogen and testosterone; so it is important to maintain a constant supply of progesterone in the bloodstream. However, the invasive introduction of progesterone supplements is not always the ideal way to increase progesterone levels. We have to understand that this hormone is released naturally by the pituitary gland. Inappropriate supplementation of steroid hormones like testosterone, DHEA and progesterone may increase the risk of them converting into estradiol because they are not functioning within their natural cycles from active to inactive forms. Introducing steroid hormones impairs the natural secretion process controlled by the pituitary gland. Your own endogenous process shuts down and becomes dependent on external supplies. This makes one totally dependent on taking hormones that you yourself should be making and controlling.
The red sweet potato comes to the rescue. Using natural substances that help to increase the body’s own progesterone activity by stimulating the pituitary gland are safer than taking a progesterone supplement because the correct amount can be released as required. For example the red sweet potato we eat can be taken raw or in tincture form sublingually to activate the pituitary stimulus.
Wild yam creams that are absorbed transdermally (via the skin) will also help to raise progesterone levels and thus assist the formation of DHEA. They may take a few months to be effective, as opposed to slowly chewing a 50g piece of the common red sweet potato every day. Once the juice is absorbed under the tongue and taken up by the bloodstream, progesterone is released within the hour due to the stimulus received by the pituitary gland. Further assistance from the plant kingdom is given by the many phyto-estrogens we can eat every day that also block the oestrogen alpha-receptors. We can make selective hormone receptor modulators (SERMS) available to these cells with herbs like red clover, stinging nettle and black cohosh that offer a weaker link to the receptors. People on vegetarian diets who eat a lot of herbs, salads, juices and fresh fruit have lower blood levels of estradiol. They also excrete it in greater amounts, due to having lower fat levels in their bodies.
Blood type errors and cancer
People who do not eat according to their blood type food recommendations are more vulnerable to many kinds of cancer. Lectins in foods are substances that inactivate and bind up cells, should you be ingesting foods for which you do not have the appropriate antigens.
Antigens are what identify foods as being either beneficial or harmful to your blood type or to you as an individual. Lectins damage the liver and immune system and clumps of inactivated cells bind to toxic particles and parasites inside the body and get bigger and bigger, the more the offending foods are tipped into the body. Tumours can then form inside or around them, should estradiol be stimulating nearby alpha receptors. These sites form the perfect environment for cancer cells to proliferate as oxygen levels are low and undigested nutrients are plentiful.
Hormonal disruption caused by disagreeable foods can go as far as deactivating the thyroid gland, jamming up the liver and pancreas or slowing down the detoxification processes within the body by as much as 75%. Although soya beans can be used as a source of phyto-estrogens, the plot backfires when other indigestible compounds like trypsin inhibitors, also present in soya beans can promote the growth of tumours. This is especially true for blood type O and B non-secretors who are not able to digest soya products. For them, it floods the body with oestrogen in all its forms and it favours sites to multiply in breast tissue. When the liver malfunctions, the door to cancer is wide open. It is never too late for us to wake up and clean up.
The harmful form of testosterone known as dihydro-testosterone (DHT) can disrupt hormonal health in both males and females. In men, the prostate gland is a prime target. When the 5-alphareductase enzyme is overactive, it facilitates an excessive amount of DHT production and the epithelial cells that line the vessels in the prostate gland are then stimulated to divide and multiply. This causes an enlargement of the prostate (BPH), usually still benign at this stage.
When mutagenic material is involved, or estradiol has latched onto an alpha-receptor; biopsies show signs of cancer. As in breast or uterine tissue, estrogen receptors in prostate glands have nearby genetic strands where estradiol can stimulate cell proliferation if it does not cycle back to more inactive forms. Extracts from the stinging nettle have been successfully used to block these receptors. Saw Palmetto berries are good for blocking the action of DHT but no reliable reports of cancer cures have been noted. Red clover can be used to block these receptors as well and has shown significant improvement with BPH.
Many antimutagenic herbs are being researched and have potent effects. Keep an eye on herbs like Cat’s Claw and Artemisia as they are delivering very promising results. Although not as dangerous, another conversion site for DHT is on the scalp within the hair follicles; causing hair to drop out and produce the male baldness pattern in males and females. Ladies with a DHT problem also develop benign cysts on their ovaries. This condition is known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and also involves hirsutism (unwanted hair on face or chest), insulin resistance and moodiness. Herbs like Chasteberry and the juice of fresh pumpkin seeds help to block testosterone receptors and prevent the conversion of testosterone into DHT. However, the real trouble is still with estradiol (or Xenestrogens), even in men and a healthy liver and immune system are vital defences against cancer. We also need to avoid exposure to Xenestrogens wherever we can.
All this talk about receptors: what is a hormone receptor?
A hormone receptor is a chain of proteins or amino acids, rather like a string of beads. Each one represents a code, similar to a sequence of lotto numbers. These receptor strands usually reside on cell membranes, waiting for hormones to latch onto them so they can carry out the process brought to them by the coded string of instructions. A complete match up of every code on the hormone to the receptor proteins will instigate a particular process. For example: releasing substances into the blood stream to handle stress, making more nutrients available, speeding up metabolism, etc.
The reason oestrogen is so different is because the receptor lies deep within the cell, alongside the strands of DNA. When it comes to cancer and the “divide and multiply” message, this is a dangerous place to receive the wrong instructions. A complete alignment of hormonal codes with the receptor will stimulate cell proliferation, even if the hormone latched itself onto to the receptor for the wrong reason. Xenestrogens carry a code very similar to estradiol and this is why they also stimulate cell proliferation on the alpha-estrogen receptor. The Beta-estrogen receptor is not at risk in this respect.
Now we can focus on the most dangerous site: the alpha-estrogen receptor in terms of hormonally related cancer and find a way to deceive it. This is where hormones containing information with only a few matching codes are used. Phyto-estrogens that abound in nature are our greatest allies, especially compounds known as the selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMS). Extracts from plants like red clover and black cohosh have been proven to occupy the vulnerable estrogen receptor, latching onto only a small percentage of the docking sites and thus blocking off the “divide and multiply” stimulus. Now the wayward estradiol and Xenestrogens have to stay in the bloodstream where they will be broken down by the liver or flushed away in the urine.
Compounds in plants like stinging nettle and saw palmetto take a more aggressive route to the alpha-estrogen receptor and knock off the offending hormone, shooting it back into the bloodstream. The liver plays an important role in monitoring oestrogen levels. When too much of a hormone is detected in the bloodstream, production is shut down for a while. Women who squeal for oestrogen supplementation in this situation because they experience hot flushes or headaches should rather attend to the health of their liver. After that, a little know-how will soon help them to release whatever hormones they need on demand.
Once the correct supplementation is in place and the pituitary gland is back in control there should be no need for hormonal supplementation or replacement of any kind. We were never designed to be short of hormones. It is better to attend to the cause of hormonal disarray and imbalances than to pump them into the body. The most recent statistics are proving that the past few decades of hormone replacement therapy have actually done more harm than good. Animals don’t need HRT, so why do we?
The bad and ugly side of hormone replacement/supplementation in men and women.
Once a hormone is supplied from the outside instead of being produced from the inside, the body quits producing it. This makes one dependent on taking it as a supplement for as long as you live. At what cost? You may be happy about milking your medical aid, but taking a hormone “replacement” instead of making it yourself can land you in serious trouble. Firstly, you do not know at what rate you will require oestrogen, how much you need or in what form. Secondly, how will you react to such an excess of oestrogen and in particular estradiol?
Statistics show that tipping too much oestrogen into the body makes the blood clot, leading to heart problems and strokes. Even uglier is the way oestrogen lurks around the fatty tissue and helps to pump triglycerides or very low density lipids (VLDL) into fat cells, making you bulge in all the wrong places. I have seen women on HRT suddenly become morbidly obese. I then asked myself why we try to put back hormones that the body is trying to get rid of at the time of menopause?
An even greater mystery to me is why we try to fool the body into thinking it is pregnant and possibly lactating as a means of a contraceptive? More and more hormones are being pumped in from the outside. Other people become flooded with cortisone and once this happens their entire autocrine system shuts down. This means that eicosanoids, the hormones that link to all the cells in the human body are deactivated. These hormones make up the autocrine system and they control inflammation, vasodilatation, platelet aggregation, cell proliferation and immune function.
What a joke! For as long as you take cortisone, especially when you flood yourself with it, you are compromising all your other vital functions. Is it really the best thing to take for asthma? Even more gross and macabre are people who recommend it for skin problems, arthritis and even irritable bowel syndrome. They say cortisone clears up the problem, for as long as they take it. What then? When they stop, the ailment returns, showing that is has not been resolved, it is merely suppressed by the cortisone. The repercussions of shutting down the autocrine system are not something you will read on the package insert. Instead, more drugs will be needed for inflammation, blood clotting, weight gain, and immune boosting. Go cortisone! Rather help the body to make it as and when it is required. A deficiency of the simple vitamin known as calcium d-pantothenate (vitamin B5) causes suppressed cortisone.
“ Even a young teenager I treated, who was only on anabolic steroids for 3 or 4 months, had massive drops in testosterone once he ceased taking them. And it wasn’t due to testicular atrophy: It was a change that occurred in the “control panel”, the pituitary, because he took them. Now, 3 years later, he’s on hormone replacement.” (Boosting Testosterone – Interview with Dr. Shippen By Mike Falcon & Dr. Shippen)
The silliest form of hormonal gate crashing has to be steroids. This very expensive process of pumping in anabolic steroids has left disaster in its wake. Apart from the puffed up freaks with ballooning muscles and the cheating that goes on in terms of athletic performance, people really think them to be a health benefit. Really? Little do they know that as with all the hormones you supply form the outside, you eventually get the same response: your body stops making them and you have to rely on taking them.
They are not cheap, they are not even legal and now, in order to have any gonadotropic activity, you have to use steroids or turn into a eunuch! Yes, the squeaky voice, the budding breasts and the flab that gathers around the waist are symptoms of steroid withdrawal. It’s going be costly to keep the hair on your chest, eh? Something like a few grand a shot. Then we get the macho’s that inject themselves full of testosterone. Grrrrrrrr! Once again, you will have to keep on doing that, and do you know how much you need and how sure are you that you are not going to flood yourself with the dangerous form, the DHT? How safe is your prostate, let alone your testicles? (Just a hair’s width away from cancer for most of the men today.)
Another problem with testosterone is that it is a precursor to the hormone: oestrogen. That’s right, the one the ladies battle with. In the absence of zinc, testosterone can rearrange itself into oestrogen via a process known as aromatisation. This really brings out the girlie effect, and it is hoped that all that extra weight lands on the shoulders instead of the breasts. Once again, men are vulnerable to the estradiol side of the oestrogen they make out of the testosterone. So please, take your zinc every day. If you want to bulk up, rather help the body to make its own steroid hormones to improve your athletic performance it will be much cheaper and far safer. More information at: www.naturefresh.co.za
1) The Testosterone Dilemma by Dr. Shippen. Interview at: http://www.maxmuscle.com/index.cfm/fa/homewww
2 ) Sue Visser’s full reference pages with quotations and other related articles on MEGAMAX, hormones, the menopause, progesterone, etc at www.naturefresh.co.za
3) Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility by L. Speroff, R. Glass & N Kase. Publisher: Williams & Wilkins.
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10) A special thanks to: GOOGLE search facilities of which there were too numerous to mention.
11) Townsend Letter April 2007 ; War on Cancer by R W Moss PhD