Michael T. Murray, ND
The cancer-causing potential of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a real and serious concern. More than 30 studies have been performed to determine the risk of HRT on cancer. Unfortunately, despite intense investigation, these studies have not provided clear-cut answers.
The cancer-causing potential of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a real and serious concern. More than 30 studies have been performed to determine the risk of HRT on cancer. Unfortunately, despite intense investigation, these studies have not provided clear-cut answers. The bottom line is that nobody really knows for sure what impact HRT has on cancer, but there is enough evidence to warrant concern.
Hormone replacement therapy has been linked to cancer–most closely to breast cancer, which is already the most common cancer in women. Current estimates are that one in nine women in the United States will develop breast cancer. Since estrogens play a critical role in the development of most breast cancers, it only makes sense that additional estrogens may promote breast cancer.
The benefits of HRT include relief of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, a significant reduction in osteoporosis and a possible reduction in cardiovascular disease. Before you get too excited about these beneficial effects, it is important to note that dietary, exercise and lifestyle factors have also been shown to offer identical benefits without the risks. The bottom line is that long-term HRT is not justified in most women because the risks outweigh the benefits. A natural approach offers significant advantages.
One Natural Solution
The most widely-used and thoroughly studied natural approach to menopause is black cohosh, specifically Cimicifuga racemosa. Clinical studies have shown Cimicifuga racemosa to relieve not only hot flashes, but also depression and vaginal atrophy. The VGA, the German equivalent to Health Protection Branch in Canada, includes no contraindications or limitations of use for Cimicifuga racemosa in tumor patients.
The following is a large open study done employing 131 doctors and 629 female patients. Cimicifuga racemosa produced clear improvement of menopausal symptoms in more than 80 per cent of patients within six to eight weeks. Both physical and psychological symptoms improved. Cimicifuga racemosa was very well tolerated, as there was no discontinuation of therapy and only seven percent of patients reported mild transitory stomach complaints.
One of the most publicized effects of estrogen is its role in maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis. While there is experimental and epidemiological evidence that phytoestrogens prevent osteoporosis and reduce bone resorption, at this time there are no long-term studies demonstrating Cimicifuga racemosa can prevent or improve osteoporosis. However, based on Cimicifuga racemosa’s mechanism of action and long-term clinical experience, many experts believe it will be shown to positively influence bone resorption.
Mainstream medicine is just starting to acknowledge the value of complementary medicine in the treatment of menopausal symptomes. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynacologists of Canada creates a publication that sets guidelines for medical treatment of osteoporosis and menopausal symptoms in Canada. This set of guidelines is only available every five years as it requires a very large collaborative effort of many highly qualified specialists. For the very first time a herb–Remifemin (Cimicifuga racemosa)–was acknowledged in this very conservative publication. This is exciting for herbal and nutritional medicine in general as it opens the doors for other evidence-based medicines in Canada to be accepted on their scientific merits.