Certain types of cancers are related to your hormones. Most notably, breast and prostate cancer, but also testicular, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancer, among others. This is why ensuring your Hormone circuit is well balanced is one of the best ways to protect yourself against such cancers. But because each person’s hormone profile is unique, we advocate for a personalized approach to hormone metabolism.
In this article, we will be focusing on estrogen, as it is one of the biggest risk factors for these types of cancers. And it doesn’t just affect women. Estrogen is also a big risk factor for prostate cancer in men as well.
*We will also discuss the role of stress and the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response in relation to estrogen imbalance. Remember, your NEM is your body’s global response to stress. It’s composed of six circuits: The Hormone, the Bioenergetics, the Cardionomic, the Neuroaffect, the Inflammation, and the Detoxification circuits.
The most pertinent for us today is the Hormone circuit. It is composed of your adrenal glands, thyroid gland, and reproductive glands (ovaries and testes). Your Detoxification circuit is the second most involved in these cancers. And it is composed of your liver, interstitium, and immune system.
Hormone-related cancers are no joke. They are among the biggest killers of both men and women worldwide. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women across the globe. In the US, prostate cancer comes second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in men. It’s estimated that one in nine men will develop it at some point in their lives.
This makes reducing your risk factors, whether you’re a man or a woman, a worthwhile pursuit. And that means you need to keep your hormones in balance.
With estrogen, it’s not its absolute levels that are problematic, though they are important too. But it's the relative levels compared to progesterone in women and testosterone in men that really count.
With age, all of these hormones decrease, but sometimes at different rates. So if your progesterone or testosterone levels decrease more rapidly than your estrogen levels, you then have what we call estrogen dominance.
In women, estrogen dominance can cause symptoms such as:
And, if these issues aren’t addressed, the endometriosis can progress into endometrial cancer, and the breast issues can develop into breast cancer. In men, estrogen dominance can lead to loss of libido and an increase in the risk of enlarged prostates and prostate cancer.
But what exactly is making so many people sick with these estrogen-related cancers, and these hormone-related issues in general?
With such complex conditions, it’s almost always a combination of different risk factors that contribute to their development. With something like breast or prostate cancer, it can be a combination of:
Let’s take a look at each risk factor…
Before we talk about genetics as a risk factor, it's important to know that purely hereditary conditions are quite rare. There are just a handful of conditions that only arise due to genetics. Breast cancer is not one of them. There are genetic risk factors for breast cancer, meaning, you may inherit certain gene mutations that make you more susceptible to developing breast cancer. But these genes need to be switched on first.
So, even if you have these mutations, it doesn’t mean you will get breast cancer. It just means that you might want to take a few extra precautions in your life to help reduce the risk.
The two most well-known genetic mutations associated with breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. And it’s interesting to note that both men and women can get breast cancer, and in fact, if a man in your family has or has had breast cancer, then you have a higher chance of having these mutations.
But DNA damage, rather than hereditary genetics, can also lead to breast cancer. This is usually in the form of DNA adducts, which is when segments of DNA bind to cancer-causing chemicals, leading to carcinogenesis. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the next section.
Not all estrogens are harmful. There are three main types of estrogen metabolites: 2-Hydroxiestrone (2-OHE1), 4-Hydroxiestrone (4-OHE1), and 16α-Hydroxiestrone (16α-OHE1). These are all naturally occurring, usually endogenous catechol estrogens – a kind of metabolite. But you can also be exposed to them through your environment.
The first one, 2-OHE1, is what we can categorize as “good”. Studies have shown that it has very little estrogen receptor binding affinity and has even been shown to decrease the proliferation of cultured breast cancer cells by 20-30%. In comparison, the 16α-OHE1 metabolite is considered a potent activator of estrogen receptors and it induces the proliferation of cultured breast cancer cells by 40%.
The last one, 4-OHE1 has been shown, with strong evidence, that exposure to it in the environment can aid in the formation of DNA adducts. But, again, it’s not just the absolute levels of these estrogens that counts. It’s also a matter of ratios.
More specifically, the 2:16α-OHE1 ratio seems to be quite significant for breast cancer patients. For example, in a study from 1998, post-menopausal women that ended up developing breast cancer were found to have a 15% lower 2:16α-OHE1 ratio than controls.
All these metabolites, then, can also be good biomarkers to detect your susceptibility to estrogen-induced cancers, whether breast or prostate.
What happens with unused estrogen that is circulating the body? It has to be metabolized. That’s the liver’s job, which it does through Phase I and/or Phase II detoxification. So if your Detoxification circuit is not in top shape, you may end up with higher levels of estrogen (as well as toxins and biotoxins) in your system.
It’s very common to have a slowed or congested Detoxification circuit if you have adrenal fatigue. And estrogen-dominance often co-occurs with adrenal fatigue as well.
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a condition that develops due to chronic stress, whether physical or psychological. Its symptoms include fatigue, sleep disturbances, weight gain, brain fog, anxiety, mild depression, hair loss, dry skin, loss of libido, PMS, infertility, estrogen dominance, hypoglycemia, salt and sugar cravings, immune dysfunction, food and drug sensitivities, heart palpitations, and an inability to handle stress, among others.
When your body is facing high levels of stress, it affects your entire NEM, including your Detoxification circuit. As this system slows down to conserve energy, it leads to a build-up of toxins and metabolites in your body, including estrogen metabolites.
To avoid or remedy the toxic or metabolic build-up in your system, your Detoxification circuit needs to be addressed. But do so very carefully, as it can backfire if done too quickly or incorrectly. That’s why in a personalized approach to hormone metabolism, it’s important to first assess how advanced your AFS, estrogen dominance, and Detoxification circuit dysregulation are.
Most of the time, it is a good idea to first start with Phase II detoxification before moving onto Phase I, due to the way these two pathways metabolize substances, including estrogen.
Phase I is where fat-soluble toxins and metabolites are broken down into water-soluble compounds. But that means that these substances are no longer trapped in the fat, and can therefore more easily circulate in your system.
Phase II involves glucuronidation, sulfation, methylation, glutathione conjugation, and acetylation. Phase I is the major detoxification pathway, and it involves hydroxylation. You need to take all of these processes into account in your personalized approach to hormone metabolism. And you can do that using different dietary, lifestyle, and supplementation protocols.
We’ve already mentioned how chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, or AFS, and how one of the symptoms of AFS is estrogen dominance. But did you know that estrogen dominance can also trigger or worsen AFS? That’s because hormone imbalance is a stressor on your body. And, since the adrenal glands are only one component of your NEM’s Hormone circuit, when they dysregulate, the closely related organs will be affected as well.
Your thyroid, adrenals, and reproductive organs are all connected through this circuit and through the ovarian-adrenal-thyroid (OAT) axis, and they all answer to the control center in your brain, composed of your hypothalamus and pituitary gland.
So, if you have thyroid issues, they need to be addressed. If you have adrenal fatigue, you need to go on an adrenal fatigue recovery program. And if you have estrogen dominance, you need a personalized approach to hormone metabolism. Otherwise, you really can’t tell which system will be affected next due to this domino effect.
And this applies to any dysregulation, disruption, or condition you may have. Don’t take it for granted that it’s just some small issue, and if you just ignore it, it will go away. It may indeed go away, but by the time it has, it may have triggered some other issue that you’re more vulnerable to.
It’s very important that you find yourself a health professional that understands your unique case and knows how to create individualized recovery plans. They shouldn't only rely on lab tests for your specific complaint. They need to take a proper medical history and leave no stone unturned. But it's also your job to make sure you keep track of what's happening to your body. Check your breast cancer biomarkers as well as your inflammation biomarkers. Give your physician a complete view of your diet and lifestyle, as well as your environment and relationships. This is what it means to have a personalized approach to hormone metabolism, and it requires your input.
Your body is an ecosystem of different types of cells, tissues, organs, fluids, systems, bacteria, fungi, and viruses all living and working together as a unit. By the time a body begins to develop some type of condition, there were many disruptions in that ecosystem that took place to get to that point. Breast cancer, prostate cancer, and hormone imbalances, in general, are no different.
Your personalized approach to hormone metabolism should include some of, or all of, the following:
And, finally, it is always a good idea to have the guidance of an expert, as there are many nuances to understand and pitfalls to avoid.
If you have questions about how a personalized approach to hormone metabolism works or what adrenal fatigue recovery protocol suits you best, you can contact the Dr. Lam Coaching team. We can offer you a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and what your options are. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.
Your body is unique, so it doesn’t make sense to take a one-size-fits-all approach to your health. But that’s what many people do. A personalized approach to hormone metabolism, however, will take your genetics, diet, lifestyle, and environment into account to create the best protocol for you.