Estrogen: Friend Now, Cancer-Causing Foe Later

The female body is truly complex. Estrogen, the sex hormone we naturally produce, is a double-edged sword that may cause our own demise!

To help women understand their bodies and better safeguard their health, let’s talk about the cancer-related dangers of high estrogen levels, the causes, and what women can do about it.


The Link Between Estrogen and Breast Cancer Cells

Estrogen, one of the main female sex hormones, is crucial for female development and fertility. However, most women may not realize that too much estrogen can fuel the growth of breast cancer cells.

Approximately 80% of all breast cancers have estrogen receptors, allowing the hormone to bind to the cells and make them do things they normally wouldn’t. To be specific:

  • It speeds up cell division: When estrogen attaches to receptors on breast cancer cells, it accelerates the cell cycle, causing cells to divide more frequently. This occurrence leads to a higher number of cells overall and faster tumor growth.
  • It prevents cell death: Estrogen inhibits apoptosis, the programmed cell death that helps regulate cell growth. If apoptosis is prevented, breast cancer cells continue living and multiplying instead of dying.
  • It stimulates the growth of blood vessels: Estrogen triggers angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels. Because tumors depend on a blood supply for oxygen and nutrients, estrogen-driven angiogenesis can contribute to tumor growth and metastasis.
  • It may cause DNA damage: Estrogen and its metabolites may cause mutations in breast cells that lead to cancer. Prolonged periods of estrogen exposure, such as early menstruation or late menopause, may increase the risk of these DNA-damaging effects.

An ongoing study supports these findings. “Our work demonstrates that estrogen can directly induce genomic rearrangements that lead to cancer, so its role in breast cancer development is both that of a catalyst and a cause,” shared study author Jake Lee in an interview with The Harvard Gazette.


What Causes High Estrogen Levels?

You may have elevated estrogen levels due to the following:

  • High body fat percentage: Adipose (fat) tissue releases estrogen, and having too much can raise estrogen levels. Click here to find out if you meet the ideal body fat percentage based on your age.
  • Stress: Stress prompts cortisol production. Too much cortisol can reduce progesterone, letting estrogen levels rise unchecked.
  • Medications: Hormone therapy aimed at boosting low estrogen levels can lead to an excess. Dosage adjustments may be necessary to achieve the optimal balance over time.
  • Alcohol: Too much of anything is bad, especially when it comes to alcohol. Drinking too much can increase estrogen and intervene with the body’s ability to break it down. Read How Alcohol Damages DNA for more information.
  • Liver function: The liver metabolizes or breaks down estrogen. Excesses can build up if the liver is malfunctioning or lacking essential elements.
  • Synthetic Chemicals: Chemicals like bisphenol A and phthalates in plastic products can mimic estrogen, raising its levels in the body. Pesticides, household cleaners, and some soaps and shampoos can contribute, too.

Reducing estrogen levels or blocking its effects may help slow or prevent certain breast cancers from developing. The good news is, it’s possible for women to lower their estrogen exposure.


How to Lower Estrogen Levels Naturally

Here are four natural ways to lower estrogen and minimize breast cancer risk:


1. Keep Your Weight in Check

As mentioned, fat tissue produces estrogen, so losing excess weight can significantly decrease your estrogen levels and breast cancer risk.

If you’re overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can already make a difference. Focus on a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, veggies, lean protein, and whole grains. Limit processed foods, sugar, and red meat since they can disrupt hormonal balance and increase estrogen levels in your body.

Also, engage in regular exercise to shed the extra pounds and lower estrogen levels. Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Walking, jogging, yoga, and strength training are all excellent options. Moving your body and breaking a sweat also reduces body fat, helping you metabolize excess estrogen in your bloodstream.


2. Put the Glass Down

Cutting back or eliminating alcohol is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of not only breast cancer, but dozens of other life-threatening diseases. Limit yourself to no more than one drink per day, reserve it for special occasions, or avoid alcohol altogether.


3. Spend Up to Nine Hours in Dreamland

Poor sleep quality can impact hormone patterns and metabolism, spurring issues like diabetes, obesity, and hormonal imbalances.

Melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone, can help promote hormonal balance, especially in regulating female sex hormones. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.


4. Leave Your Troubles Behind

Stress in the brain heads to the body. When the body senses a threat, it produces cortisol, also called the “stress hormone” or “fight or flight response.” To make and release cortisol, the body uses progesterone. Spending too much time in “fight or flight” mode leads to an increased use of progesterone, causing a rise in estrogen relative to progesterone.

To maintain balance, engage in activities that bring joy, prioritize experiences that reduce stress, and enhance your overall well-being and calm. Life is too short to constantly worry, so let loose, laugh out loud, and have fun whenever possible.

Making lifestyle changes to address excess estrogen may help you dodge breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about all options, including medications that can help promote hormonal balance or counter estrogen’s effects.


Be Aware of Estrogen’s Role in Breast Cancer

While estrogen is essential for female development and fertility, it can also stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells. Reducing estrogen exposure and activity in your body may help reduce your breast cancer risk and improve your prognosis, if diagnosed. The lifestyle changes covered here provide an arsenal of tools for you to lower dangerous estrogen levels. Although making these changes requires effort and commitment, the health advantages are worth it. Take action today to curb this hormone and stay healthy.