There are three NATURAL ESTROGENS. E1 is called ESTRONE, E2 is called ESTRADIOL, and E3 is called ESTRIOL. Estrone or E1 is the main estrogen that the body makes postmenopausally. Many researchers believe that high levels of E1 may increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Estradiol, E2 helps maintain bone structure, increases the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has a calming effect, decreases fatigue, helps maintain memory, works as an antioxidant and increased HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Estriol, E3, is 80 times weaker than E2 and so has a lesser stimulatory effect. Considerable evidence exists to show that it may be protective against breast cancer. In fact, E3 is being used experimentally in breast cancer patients. It does NOT have the bone, heart or brain protective effects of estradiol. Estriol (E3) helps maintain pregnancy, benefits the vaginal lining, controls the symptoms of menopause and blocks E1 by occupying the estrogen receptor sites on the cells in breast tissue.
Estrogen metabolism can change after menopause. Consequently women can respond differently to estrogen replacement. When estrogen is broken down in the body, there are two major competing pathways (2 hydroxy estrone and 16 hydroxy estrone) and one minor pathway (4 hydroxy estrone). Bear with me here as the dominant pathway in an individual may determine whether or not a woman is more susceptible to breast cancer. 2-hyroxy estrone is good estrogen. It blocks stonger estrogen products that my be carcinogenic. 2 hydroxy estrone is protective against cancer when it undergoes a chemical process in the body called methylation to 2 methoxy estrone. You can support your body’s ability to methylate, and hence decrease your susceptibility to brast cancer using Vitamins B6, B12 and folate, taking Methionine, taking S-adenosyl methinone and by decreasing stress.
16 hydroxy estrone has significant strong estrogenic activity and studies show that it my be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. High levels are associated with obesity, hypothyroidism, pesticide toxicity, omega-6-fatty acid excess and inflammatory cytokines. 4 hydroxy estrone may directly damage DNA and cause mutations. It is proposed to enhance cancer development. Synthetic equine estrogens such as Premarin increase metabolism into the direction of 4 hydroxy estrones. Women with uterine fibroids also may have increased levels of 4 hydroxy estrones. So I ask the question, knowing what you have read about estrogen metabolism, which pathway is the preferred path for the breakdown of Estrogen in the body? It is of course, the 2 hydroxy estrone path. You can actually steer your metabolism toward this major pathway by using Omega-3-fatty acids, B6, B12 and folate, the herbs rosemary and turmeric, weight loss, moderate exercise, cruciferous vegetables, flax, soy, Kudzu, a high protein diet and broccoli derivatives such as Indole 3 carbinol, dindolymethane and sulforaphane.
You can actually help control which pathway your estrogen is metabolized. Other factors that effect estrogen metabolism include OBESITY, which decreases 2 hydroxy estrone and increases 16 hydroxy estrone. ALCOHOL interferes with the body’s ability to detoxify estrogen and increases E2 levels and the risk of breast cancer. Xenoestrogens, or chemicals that imitate estrogens are toxic to the body. These include pesticides, synthetic hormones fed to animals, plastics and cosmetics. ANTIBIOTICS found in foods may be associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer.
I realize that this is a complex subject, but I have tried to state it simply to show that there are several ways that you can “coax” your body into choosing a good metabolic pathway for estrogen and decrease your susceptibility to cancer.