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Cancer and Hormone Replacement

Article date: 1998

by Elmer M. Cranton, M.D.

Fear-based articles increasingly appear in the major news media correlating hormones with cancer. Careful review of the research data, however, shows that quoted studies only show that people with normal hormone levels have more cancer than people who are deficient.

You cannot live without hormones. You cannot get cancer if you are not alive. If you are only half-alive because of hormone deficiency, you get less cancer. Does that mean that hormones cause cancer?

This line of reasoning applies to testosterone, estrogen, growth hormone, DHEA, and other hormones. It's nothing new. A long-accepted therapy for prostate cancer is castration (or the chemical equivalent with Lupron). An effective treatment for breast cancer is chemical blockage of estrogen with Tamoxifen (female chemical castration). Menopause is the equivalent of castration for a woman—the ovaries cease to function.

There is a major difference between saying that hormone deficiency slows cancer growth and jumping to the conclusion that normal hormone levels cause cancer. Normal hormone levels are essential for health and well being. All cells in the body require hormones for support, not just cancer cells.

Hormones do not cause cancer at normal levels,
Hormone deficiency can retard cancer, along with everything else!

Hormone deficiency retards the growth and replacement of all cells, not just cancer cells. Cancer is as dependent on hormones as healthy organs. If you choose to live in a deficiency state, you may also reduce the probability for cancer—but you pay the price of a significantly lower quality of life. That is a matter of personal choice. Deficiencies of many hormones occur with advancing age. Old age is, to some extent, a deficiency disease. Consider also, the hormone deficiency weakens the immune system, a major defense against cancer.

Hormone production declines with age. If sex hormones are low, the sex organs shrivel up, they atrophy; they have fewer cells and those cells are starved for the hormones needed for cell replacement, repair, healing, function, and vigor. That condition is a deficiency disease, an age-related decline in function. That same deficiency can reduce the likelihood of cancer. In fact, it would be surprising if it did not. Cancer cannot occur without hormones. Neither can life or health.

If growth hormone is deficient, organs atrophy. Function declines. Skin becomes thinner. Muscles waste away. Healing slows. Fat increases. Memory fails. Organs are starved for a vital substance needed for metabolism and normal cell replacement throughout life. Hence, the decay of old age. Growth hormone should be renamed "cell replacement and repair hormone" in adult life. Cancer is a process of uncontrolled cell replacement and is highly dependent on growth hormone, as reflected by blood levels of IGF-1.

A study of 20,000 children who received growth hormone for many years to treat dwarfism showed no increase in cancer. It is expected, however, that deficiency with age retards cancer compared with healthier people.

The most effective treatment for advanced prostate cancer is castration—or the chemical equivalent with testosterone blockers. The prostate is highly dependent on testosterone. Even when prostate cancer is far advanced and has spread to bones, castration will often bring a near total remission lasting several years. Testosterone deficiency definitely retards prostate cancer. A man might therefore elect to live with testosterone deficiency to reduce his chances for prostate cancer. That does not mean that testosterone at normal levels causes cancer. Testosterone deficiency is not acceptable to most men, if they have a choice. The same could be said about growth hormone.

A slow, progressive equivalent of "castration" occurs with aging as sex hormones decline. If a man is willing to accept that age-associated loss of function, not just as it effects the prostate and sex organs, but loss of testosterone and growth hormone support of the brain, heart and throughout the body; and if he is willing to accept the functional decline with age that occurs without hormone replacement, he may have a reduced risk for prostate cancer and other forms of cancer.

If a woman is willing to accept the equivalent of castration at menopause, when her ovaries fail, she may experience a lower risk of breast cancer than she would have if her ovaries continued to function. However, without hormone replacement after menopause, the incidence of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis and death from all causes will be much greater. Atrophy will occur in the breasts and sex organs. That is one choice.

To completely avoid breast cancer, it is possible to have bilateral breast removal as a preventive measure. Some women actually do that. That too is a choice. To live with relative estrogen/progesterone deficiency creates a state half way between surgical removal and hormone replacement. The fact is, however, that hormone replacement with estrogen has been proven to reduce the death rate from all causes by up to 40%, despite a possible increase in breast cancer. If a woman dies of a heart attack, stroke or colon cancer, she can't get breast cancer, that's for sure. If the death rate from all causes decreases, then a woman will live longer receiving hormone replacement. Cancer might then be the final cause of death later in life.

Estrogen replacement reduces cardiovascular death by 60%. Cardiovascular disease normally causes 50% of all deaths. With estrogen replacement after menopause, death rate from all causes is reduced by 40%. Death rate from cancer will therefore be greater as a percentage, of all deaths, but at an older age. Is that important if death rate from all causes, including cancer is reduced by 40%?

Studies correlating growth hormone levels (IGF-1) with cancer compare people with normal levels of growth hormone to people of the same age who are deficient. The highest 20% are compared to the lowest 20%. Because hormones are necessary for healthy cell replacement, it is predictable that hormone deficiency will slow all cell growth, including cancer.

The fact that age-related hormone deficiencies deprive cancer cells as well as healthy cells of vital support does not mean that hormone replacement causes cancer. It means that hormone deficiencies reduce cancer along with everything else, including quality of life and life expectancy.

Hormone replacement should restore levels only to that of a healthy adult between the ages of 30 to 40. That is quite enough to maintain better health and function into old age, without increasing the risk of cancer. Healthy organs are larger, and have more cells. Cells replace themselves as needed when they wear out if adequate levels of hormones are present.

Consider all the facts in proper perspective before allowing cancer phobia to affect your judgment. Make an informed decision for yourself, based on the big picture, not on a few isolated statistics. If you choose to live with hormone deficiencies as you age, you might suffer a substantial reduction in the quality of your life.

Copyright © 1998 Elmer M. Cranton, M.D.





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