Estrogen is a hormone that has so many benefits. It can protect your heart, brain and bones, and improves your mood and sex life. Besides allowing women to have babies, estrogen regulates many other functions. It can regulate cholesterol, blood sugar, bone and muscle mass, circulation and blood flow, as well as maintain collagen production, moisture in the skin and helps with memory and focus.
At puberty up until menopause, women make estrogen in their ovaries, primarily estradiol that has all those positive effects. After menopause, a different king of estrogen is made in your adrenal glands and fat, but this is not the kind that protects you. No matter what kind of estrogen you are making and where you are in your reproductive cycle, your liver will convert estrogen in forms that your body can get rid of. These by products are called metabolites.
You need not be afraid of estrogen, it’s how your body processes it that matters and you can help your body process estrogen so you get the benefits and reduce any risk.
Non Toxic vs Toxic Estrogen Metabolites
Some estrogen breakdown products such as 16 OH and 4 OH (OH = hydroxy estrone) stimulate tumor growth and whereas 2 OH inhibits tumor growth. 1. In breast cancer, 4 OH was 4 times higher than 2OH. Therefore, looking at the ratio of 4OH to 2OH may be useful to detect malignant breast tumors. 2 Having more 2OH estradiol is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. 3,4 The 4OH estrone damages DNA which can initiate cancer development. 4OH also initiates prostate cancer in men. 5 So knowing this, we can change the production by using food and nutraceuticals! I will show you how to make more of the good 2OH and less of the toxic 4OH.
Making More Protective Metabolites
N acetylcysteine (NAC) and Resveratrol: can block the oxidation of estrogens that can damage DNA. These can keep estrogen metabolism more balanced, and it is thought the initiation of cancer of the breast, ovaries and prostate and possibly thyroid and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma can be prevented with these inexpensive supplements. 5,6 These slow down and partially block the enzyme that makes 4OH, the most toxic form of estrogen and resveratrol can also slow down and partially block the enzyme for 16 OH which is less toxic than 4OH but more toxic than 16 OH. It’s like putting a detour in the road, less estrogen will go down that road so less toxic forms will develop.
Bioflavonoids found in colorful fruits and vegetables have anti-cancer properties. Quercetin has been shown to inhibit breast cancer cell growth, invasion and metastases. It suppresses tumor growth. Quercetin also strongly repressed tumor metastasis and invasion.7Fruits and vegetables are the primary dietary sources of quercetin, particularly citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, sage, tea, red wine, grapes, cherries, berries and olive oil.
Indole 3 Carbinol (I3C) which is converted into diindolylmethane (DIM), protects again breast cancer. These are found in cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables or the family Brassicaceae (Cruciferae) include broccoli, Bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi. DIM modulates all stages of breast tumor development, including initiation, promotion, and progression. 8 Eating more of these will make more of the safer 2OH estrone.
I3C, DIM and cruciferous vegetables speed up the enzyme that makes the safer 2 OH estrone, whereas NAC, resveratrol slow down the enzyme the enzyme that makes 4OH estrone, the more dangerous metabolite. The above mentioned foods also do that.
Test for Metabolites to Support Prevention
There are tests that can tell how much of each metabolite you are making. Knowing what your body is doing can help target preventive strategies. If you have too much 4OH estrone and not enough 2 OH estrone, take NAC, resveratrol, eat more cruciferous vegetables and other fruits and vegetables high in bioflavonoids.
COMT Enzyme Neutralizes
There is another enzyme worth mentioning. Your ability to dispose of the metabolites is dependent on the Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) enzyme. Even safe metabolites must be neutralized and disposed of. The COMT enzyme chemically neutralizes the OH estrogens by adding a methyl group that lowers the potential for DNA damage.9 Just think of it as putting your garbage in a bag so you can dispose of it. This enzyme can work more effectively if you have methyl folate, methyl cobalamin (B12), SAMe S-Adenosyl-L-methionine, or Betaine, and Magnesium, and glutathione. Reducing stress also helps.
You CAN Decrease Your Risk of Breast and Other Cancers
Eat more colorful fruits and vegetables with bioflavonoids.
Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables.
Take supplements with NAC, resveratrol. DIM, and if your COMT enzyme is slow take one of the methylated vitamins.
Reduce stress, alcohol and saturated fats all of which may increase your risk of breast cancer.
Go to a Functional Medicine Physician who understands hormone modulation.
Test don’t guess to personalize your plan.
If you need assistance, apply for a free no obligation clarity call to see if we are a good fit. There is a lot you can do to decrease your risk of breast and other cancers and to decrease its recurrence if you have had it.
Mueck AO, Seeger H, Lippert TH. Estradiol metabolism and malignant disease. Maturitas. 2002;43(1):1-10. Accessed August 14, 2010. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12270576
Samavat H, Kurzer MS. Estrogen Metabolism and Breast Cancer. Cancer Lett. 2015;356(2 0 0):231-243. doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2014.04.018
Fuhrman BJ, Schairer C, Gail MH, et al. Estrogen Metabolism and Risk of Breast Cancer in Postmenopausal Women. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012;104(4):326-339. doi:10.1093/jnci/djr531
Dallal CM, Tice JA, Buist DSM, et al. Estrogen metabolism and breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women: a case–cohort study within B~FIT. Carcinogenesis. 2014;35(2):346-355. doi:10.1093/carcin/bgt367
Cavalieri EL, Rogan EG. Unbalanced metabolism of endogenous estrogens in the etiology and prevention of human cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2011;125(3-5):169-180. doi:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2011.03.008
Zahid M, Saeed M, Beseler C, Rogan EG, Cavalieri EL. Resveratrol and N-acetylcysteine block the cancer-initiating step in MCF-10F cells. Free Radic Biol Med. 2011;50(1):78-85. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2010.10.662
Adinew GM, Taka E, Mendonca P, Messeha SS, Soliman KFA. The Anticancer Effects of Flavonoids through miRNAs Modulations in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Nutrients. 2021;13(4):1212. doi:10.3390/nu13041212
Thomson CA, Ho E, Strom MB. Chemopreventive properties of 3,3’-diindolylmethane in breast cancer: evidence from experimental and human studies. Nutr Rev. 2016;74(7):432-443. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuw010
Dawling S, Roodi N, Mernaugh RL, Wang X, Parl FF. Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT)-mediated metabolism of catechol estrogens: comparison of wild-type and variant COMT isoforms. Cancer Res. 2001;61(18):6716-6722.