New research gives breast cancer info. you NEED to know
On December 15th, 2006 all of the major news links reported a story with profound implications: A new study reveals that U.S. breast cancer rates plunged more than 7 percent in 2003 and strongly suggests that the reason is less artificial-hormone use. This equates to approximately 14,000 women that did not get breast cancer apparently as a result of not using the previously commonly prescribed drugs premarin and provera.
The study findings were reported at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium(1) on December 14th by researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the National Cancer Institute and the Harbor UCLA Medical Center.
The implications of this is phenomenal: How many women did contract and die from breast cancer as a result of the use of the synthetic hormone replacement therapy drugs over the many years which they were commonly prescribed? More importantly:
1. What factors can women take to decrease their risk of developing breast cancer?...and
2. Are there treatment options that work more gently and effectively than conventional treatment?
Options with Breast Cancer
Clearly with the preponderance of research and clinical evidence, there is a significantly increased risk of breast cancer (and other cancers and diseases for that matter) associated with the use of synthetic hormones in women (2-9).
Therefore, besides cessation of synthetic hormones for prevention and treatment of breast cancer, there are other options. From a functional medicine viewpoint, we can look at four particular aspects which, according to the research, can synergistically contribute towards decreased breast cancer risk and can be used as potential modalities for breast cancer treatment. These four particular aspects are:
1. Nutrients as biologic response modifiers (BRM's)
2. Reduce environmental toxic load with enhanced detoxification
3. Exercise as a positive immune response mechanism
4. Structural balancing synergistic effects on biochemical and neuroendocrine modulation
We will look at a couple of promising nutrients as BRM's in this newsletter article.
Nutrients as biologic response modifiers
A biologic response modifier is a term recently used in conventional medicine typically reserved for drugs which influence immune responses. However, the term "biologic response modifier" is exquisitely appropriate to describe the effect nutrients have on multiple responses in human physiology. Used in this context, this author will use the term with the following definition: A biologic response modifier (BRM's) is a substance found in plants or naturally occurring in foods commonly consumed by humans which have beneficial immune modulating and genetic expression modification effects.
Many nutrients act as biologic response modifiers with powerful effects on health and disease processes. As BRM's, foods and specific nutrient substances and analogs used in therapeutic dosages can significantly influence immune responses and modify genetic expression of disease (10). Research shows there are very powerful nutrient substances that when used in therapeutic dosages, have a significant influence on the etiology of breast cancer. Two of these substances are indole-3-carbinol, and resveratrol.
Indole-3-cabinol (I3C) is a compound found in high concentrations in the Brassica family vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale. It has relatively recently become available in nutritional supplement form. I3C has been shown to inhibit growth of breast cancer cells by several in vitro and in vivo mechanisms. (in vitro = studies conducted in test tubes; in vivo= studies conducted in animals or humans)
Several studies have shown I3C to inhibit the growth of estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cells(11,12). I3C has been shown to work separately or cooperatively with tamoxifen by a different mechanism.
I3C also inhibits estrogenic activity by competing with estrogen for estrogen receptor binding sites on the cell(13).
A metabolite of I3C, diindolylmethane (DIM), has been shown to induce cytochrome p450 isoenzymes (14,15) . Cytochome p450 induction by DIM modulates (modulate: to adjust to or keep in proper measure) estrogen activity.
I3C inhibits the ability of human breast cancer cells to metastasize (16).
I3C blocks estrogenic stimulation of human papilloma virus (HPV) expression (17). HPV is implicated in the pathogenesis of cervical cancer, and also head and neck cancers.
I3C also increases the "beneficial" estrogen metabolites" and decreases the "harmful" estrogen metabolites. Many research studies show that the pathways by which estrogen is metabolized is an important etiological factor in diseases such as breast cancer, uterine, ovarian, cervical and even head and neck cancers (18-21). To briefly explain: Estradiol undergoes oxidative conversion to estrone. Estradiol and estrone can undergo hydroxylation by different isoenzymes...either at the 2 or 16 carbon atoms. These different metabolites have opposing effects on estrogen receptors: The 16-hydroxyestrone metabolites are associated with cancer cell proliferative effects where the 2-hydroxyestrone metabolites are associated with antiproliferative effects on cancer cells. Research shows statistically significant decreased risk for uterine, ovarian and cervical cancers in women with higher ratios of 2 to 16 hydroxyestrones. The anti-carcinogenic 2-hydroxyestrones are increased and the pro-carcinogenic 16-hydroxyestrones are decreased, respectively, by I3C (22,23).
This effect has been verified in many patients by this author through a special laboratory test of urine. We have seen this effect occur in as rapidly as 60 days in many patients. The therapeutic dose range of I3C is between 200-400 mg/day, though studies show safety even at higher dosages.
Resveratrol is a phenolic antioxidant found in grapes, and can be isolated for supplemental use. Resveratrol in nutraceutical dosages inhibits the activity of COX-2 inflammatory enzymes in human breast and oral epithelial cells (24). A preponderance of research implicates inflammation as an underlying etiology in many diseases, including cancer.
Resveratrol also inhibits an enzyme which is critical in the conversion of androgens to estrogens (25). This enzyme, called the cytochrome P450 (CYP) 19, or aromatase, shows elevation in over 60% of breast carcinomas (26) with higher levels of messenger RNA expression and activity compared with non-malignant tissue (27). This mechanism by which therapeutic doses of resveratrol inhibits aromatase at both the enzyme and messenger RNA levels is significant in decreasing the risk, or use as adjunctive treatment, in breast cancer.
Resveratrol also has activity as an adaptogen. Simply stated, an adaptogen is a substance which raises the production of a chemical the body produces when it's too low, or lowers the production of a chemical the body produces when it's too high. Resveratrol has an adaptogenic effect on estrogen activity (28). Studies in humans have shown it produces an anti-estrogenic effect in endometrial cancers (29).
In this newletter, this author has briefly reviewed two nutrients which research confirms has powerful effects towards breast cancer reduction risk and may be useful in treatment. Used judiciously with other synergistic nutrient substances, lifestyle modifications and dietary factors, this is an option to be considered for modifying breast cancer outcomes.
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