This is a very good question because there is no research done beyond 10 years in women taking hormones to determine how long it is “safe” to continue using hormones. In fact, this is exactly why conventional medicine physicians quote “10 years beyond menopause”. Since there are no studies done in the past 10 years, we really have no idea what that “magic” number is.
However, Functional Medicine physicians look at far more data than “how long” conventional studies have been done to determine the answer to this question. Although the length of time one uses hormones may be different from one woman to another, there are clear facts that help us determine what can be recommended for our patients as individuals.
Here are the most important things to consider:
- All conventional studies that point to 10 years being safe for most women are studies looking at Premarin and Prempro. These are both prescription medications which contain at least 17 different horse estrogens for which the human body only contains one (Estradiol). Premarin contains NO Progesterone at all, and Prempro contains a ProgesTIN which is NOT the same as bioidentical ProgesterONE. In fact, ProgesTINs have now been proven to INCREASE the risk of breast cancer.
- Even in the conventional studies which studied the use of Premarin – (the 17 forms of horse Estrogens without any Progesterone at all) - the risk of breast cancer was actually LESS than those taking a placebo. And in fact, it was ONLY the group of women who took the Prempro, (the 17 forms of horse Estrogens WITH a ProgesTIN) that had an increased risk of breast cancer compared to placebo AND Premarin. This is how we now know that it is the ProgesTIN that is the culprit of breast cancer, NOT the Estrogen at all.
- With this current understanding we also know that Estrogen does NOT CAUSE breast cancer at all. But IF a woman already has breast cancer or develops breast cancer that is “Estrogen sensitive”, then Estrogen will cause that breast cancer to grow more quickly.
- We know that the risk of breast cancer increases in women as they age – when Estradiol (E2) levels go DOWN. In other words, when our Estrogen is at its LOWEST, we are at the HIGHEST risk of breast cancer.
- We now know that topical hormones are the safest way to use Estradiol. Oral Estradiol (E2), (taken in pill form) may increase a woman’s blood pressure. But TOPICAL Estrogens have NO effect on blood pressure.
- We also know that there are lifestyle factors that increase the risk of breast cancer such as alcohol, obesity, and the lack of exercise.
- We know that genetic predisposition may increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer – and even more so if she has a lifestyle that increases her risk of breast cancer.
- We know that Estriol (E3) is at the end of the Hormone Cascade. That means it does not convert to any other form of Estrogen, unlike Estradiol (E2) and Estrone (E1) which can both convert to the other as well as to Estriol (E3). When it comes to the safety of Estriol (E3) there is much to know. Estriol is not only the form of Estrogen at the end of the Hormone Cascade and thereby does not affect levels of other stronger forms of Estrogen, Estriol (E3) can offer us protection from symptoms and aging effects of menopause, even more safely than other forms of Estrogen.
This is exactly why when you read through my blogs and watch my videos you will see that our SUPPORT formulation is recommended for women 10 years after menopause. SUPPORT has 100% bioidentical Estriol as the form of Estrogen - balanced with bioidentical ProgesterONE. I have talked about this NOT because I don’t trust topical Estradiol (E2) which makes up 20% of the Estrogens in our HEAVEN formulation, but because conventional studies have shown it to be the “safest” Estrogen for women after menopause.
Indeed, I am 10 years past menopause myself and have no intention of changing from my original HEAVEN formulation to SUPPORT. Though I could, I just am not concerned about it for my body. With that in mind, I exercise, eat right, take basic supplements, am not obese, and though I do have an aunt who had breast cancer, she took Premarin for 30 years without any Progesterone at all because HER doctor believed what conventional doctors STILL blindly quote “You don’t need any Progesterone if you don’t have a uterus.” There is nothing further from the truth. ALL Estrogens should be balanced with natural Progesterone!
In any event, I think this will give you enough information to take care of yourself the way you intend. And… let me say, I appreciate you and am also quite proud of you for making it a point to think for yourself.
Women’s Midlife Specialist, Inc.
NOTICE: Dr. Karen always suggests following the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider first and foremost, as you and your provider know YOU best. However, customers have still asked for Dr. Karen's general opinion on this subject based on her own research and education in the profession of Functional Medicine. The above information is Dr. Karen's opinions.