Hips, Breast Cancer and Hormones

Dr. Jennifer Landa

Jennifer Landa, M.D.
Monday, October 29, 2007

I recently came across an interesting article from an international group of researchers that reported that the width of a woman’s hips might indicate her daughter’s risk of breast cancer. This topic is of great interest to my patients as users of bioidentical hormone therapy who are concerned with decreasing cancer risk in themselves and their family members. Before starting my Orlando BodyLogicMD practice in anti-aging medicine, I was a full time OB/GYN treating many women with breast cancer and women who are concerned with their risk for breast cancer, hence my interest in this research.

During the study of 6,370 Finnish women, researchers found that breast cancer rates were three times higher in women born to mothers with relatively wide hips and nearly seven times higher in women born to mothers with wide hips who had already given birth before. The researchers also noted that a rounder hip shape led to an increased risk of breast cancer in female offspring. The authors of the article point out that wide, round hips indicate high sex hormone concentrations in the mother, which may increase their daughter’s breast cancer risk. It suggests that the breast cancer risk starts in the beginning of the pregnancy when the embryo’s developing breast tissue is exposed to their mom’s hormones.

The question in my mind is, “Why might increased hip width indicate a greater risk of breast cancer in the daughter?”

As mentioned, the researchers said it relates to sex hormone levels in the mom. In general, wider hips correspond to higher estrogen levels. This article seems to speak directly to the link between estrogen dominance and breast cancer.

What is estrogen dominance?
Estrogen dominance means that estrogen is high, especially relatively to progesterone. Symptoms from estrogen dominance are one of the biggest complaints of women in perimenopause and menopause. Obviously, there are other causes of breast cancer besides hormone imbalance, such as genetics, toxins and others, but hormone imbalance is one that we can do something about.

High estrogens are very common in our society because of a number of ways that we are exposed to estrogens on a daily basis. Some examples are: cosmetics, foods – hormones used in meat and dairy products and plastics – food storage containers, water bottles. All of these exposures contribute to estrogen dominance. Although it is not always possible, it is best to try to avoid exposure to these sources of excess estrogen.

Below is a list of some ways to improve the healthy metabolism (breakdown) of estrogens, which may decrease your risk of estrogen dominance and help alleviate symptoms of menopause – possibly decreasing your risk of cancer.

1. Use organic meats (hormone free) and hormone free cosmetics.

2. Don’t heat the plastics that you store food in because heating can release the estrogen into the food or liquid that you are consuming.

3. B vitamins help process estrogens so taking a B complex vitamin can be helpful.

4. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower contain indole 3 carbinol (I3C). I3C improves the breakdown of estrogens to safely break down products. Take I3C in supplement form if the risk of breast cancer is especially high (for example in a person with a family history of breast cancer).

5. Other things you can do to improve estrogen breakdown to healthy break down products are:
* Consume a high protein diet
* Consume flax, soy or kudzu
* Use Omega 3 acids – fish oils

The study reviewed above seems to link high estrogens in moms to increased risk of breast cancer in their daughters. This study also suggests that females need to prevent estrogen dominance and treat it when present. I suggest implementing the lifestyle changes above to ensure the safe break down of estrogens, which can decrease estrogen dominance and possibly decrease your risk of breast cancer.

Yours in health,
Jennifer Landa M.D.
Orlando, FL

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