Some Real Causes of Breast Cancer

By Dr. Cynthia Horner

Why Are We Running For the Cure But  Running From The Cause?

Breast cancer in both men and women is a serious issue.  Yes, breast cancer does affect men also. My heart is touched by those whodownload have endured treatment or have had their breasts removed because of this disease.  What troubles me is the media’s and medical community’s avoidance to acknowledge that many of the causes of breast cancer are well known and therefore breast cancer could be reduced or prevented.

I am not a fan of Susan G. Komen for the cure and I am far from alone in this opinion. I will support breast cancer research and efforts to eliminate causes of breast cancer but I will not run to support a multi-million-dollar company with assets totaling over 390 million dollars . Only 20.9% of these funds were reportedly used in the 2009-2010 fiscal year for research, “for the cure.” Why don’t we close the barn door before the animals get out. I am all for doing as much to prevent the causes of breast cancer as cure it.


Hormone replacement therapy

The concept of giving women hormones as they aged was introduced to women in the 1960s as the wonder pill that would keep them young and make all their menopausal symptoms disappear.  The pill was made of estrogens only and referred to as ERT, estrogen replacement therapy.  These early estrogens were taken from horses.  ERT had been poorly researched, and within a few short years after the ERT pill was introduced women were developing uterine cancer at a rate four to eight times greater than women not on ERT.

By the 1980s researchers attempted to alleviate this problem by adding synthetic progesterone to the estrogens, to create a new product with a new name HRT for hormone replacement therapy.  Statistics show that breast cancer increased by 52% between 1950 and 1990, but pharmaceutical companies were hesitant to attribute the years of ERT use as a contributing factor to this increase.

By the 1990s it became evident the new HRT was not living up to its promises.  Women complained of weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, only to be given more drugs which made them feel even worse.  In 2002 two major studies revealed that the use of synthetic hormones in HRT made women 29% more likely to develop breast cancer.

To understand how this number impacts the population, let’s look at the six million women who reported taking Prempro (the most popular HRT prescribed) in 2000.  Approximately 4,200 would get breast cancer.  In 2003 breast cancer rates dropped rapidly in all women, but more so in those women 50 years and older, as HRT use dropped also. Doctors wrote 20 million less prescription in for HRT in 2003.  Research showed estrogen-receptor-positive cancers decreasing by nearly 15 %.


Oral contraceptives

The birth control pill is a combination of estradiol and synthetic progesterone.  Estradiol is one type of estrogen. The term estrogen refers to a group of 20 different hormones with similar structure and function.  Three estrogens have been determined as most important in women’s health, estrone, estradiol, and estriol.  Estradiol has been shown to increase cell proliferation by 230 %.  Estrone is converted to estradiol in the bowel.  These two estrogens have been found to be the primary cancer culprits.  Unfortunately these are the estrogens used in birth control pills.

Estrogens compete for cell receptors.  The addition of these estrogens, from birth control pills, makes it difficult for all other estrogens made by the body to bind to cell receptors.  Estorgen tells the body to make more reproductive tissue; breast tissue, uterine tissue and ovarian tissue. It has been reported by bra manufacturers that the average bra size increased one cup size about five years after the birth control pill was introduced. This is one example of the cell proliferation effects estradiol has on the breast tissue.



If a mother breastfeeds one infant, for a minimum of one year it has been shown to decrease the mothers risk of breast cancer by 35% to 50 %.  The reason is thought to be that breastfeeding lowers estrogen levels (perhaps this is nature’s way to prevent a woman with an infant from having another baby.  Remember it takes a rise in estrogen for the ovary to release an egg).  Other cancer protecting affects of breastfeeding are physical changes in the cells that line the mammary ducts, and the disposal of carcinogens stored in the adipose tissue of the breasts.  Looking back in history, women were discouraged to breastfeed from the 1950s through the 1980s.  Could this be part of the reason for the increase seen in breast cancer in the years to follow?


Hormones from farming and industry

Our modern world exposes all life to unwanted hormone disruption.  Hormones come from many sources including the consumption of meat from animals that were given hormones as well as the waste-water of cattle, hog and chicken farms that injected their animals with hormones.  Their feces enter into the waste-water effecting streams, and crop fields. One of the biggest sources of unwanted hormone is in our cow milk supply. How could we think hormones in our milk would not effect men, women and children drinking and cooking with the milk. Many synthetic pesticides have been deemed as hormone disrupters.

Another significant source of hormones is  the presence of natural and synthetic estrogens in our water from the urine of females who have consumed has been detected in human waste-water.  All life is affected by these discarded hormones, fish, fowl, and us.  Only lately some treatment plants have begun taking measures, such as secondary and tertiary treatment and activated charcoal filtration that have been estimated to remove 90 to 100 percent of the estrogens in the waste-water.

I am happy to “run for the cure”, but I would like to see some effort to recognize and reduce the causes.