The Breast Cancer and HRT Link Surfaces Again

The Breast Cancer and HRT Link Surfaces Again


Expert’s Name: Gail Edgell
Menopause, Estrogen Replacement and Breast Health

A Canadian study has concluded that breast cancer rates fell dramatically since the announcement of the Women’s Health Initiative Study in 2002 which concentrated on the increased risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer and strokes.

The study followed women ages 50-69 and found that when HRT (hormone replacement therapy) usage decreased so did breast cancer rates. Rates decreased as much as 9.6 percent even though mammograms remained stable.

However, in 2005 breast cancer rates began to increase. It is suspected that perhaps HRT increased the rate at which a tumor grows but does not cause them. Further studies are needed to make this determination.

The data in this study was self reported and did not include how long or how often they were treated with HRT.

So should HRT be a viable option for women? You have to make the determination. I will say that doctors should be recommending HRT on the lowest dosage for the shortest amount of time possible and perhaps only to those that are having severe menopausal symptoms. It all is a matter of preference, quick relief and risk.

Yes, synthetic HRT is getting much better than it once was, but not enough for many integrative and alternative medicine physicians to recommend it.

Newer studies need to be conducted on the latest hormone replacement therapy treatments on the market.  There are still a lot of unanswered questions.

The thing that keeps surfacing for me is why aren’t traditional medicine doctors telling their patients natural things that they can do to alleviate menopausal symptoms.   If  natural approaches are taken than not as many women would need hormone replacement therapy or perhaps not as high of  a dosage.  Why not got back to the basics?  It has worked for women in other countries for centuries.

Begin educating women as to what contains estrogens so that they have the choice to make lifestyle changes.  For example:  the hormones in chicken, fish, meat and dairy products or how the BPA in plastics numbers 3, 6 and 9 have an impact on estrogen levels.   Right now, women are not even being told what increases estrogens in their bodies.  They are just being told to suffer or take a synthetic medications to get through the hard times.

Menopausal symptoms vary greatly from woman to woman.   One of the main reasons is how a woman choices to live her life.  Have you ever seem a woman who eats a “clean” diet, exercises and manages her stress  have a crappy menopause?  I haven’t.  There is some merit to this and it is my duty to continue to educate women.

As I have said in the past and will say it again.  Women need to take control of their menopause and not just stand in the shadows of their doctor.    In fact, it is a wider scope than menopause, it is their life.  If women are not feeling well, it impacts many people not just herself.

So if you are reading this article take control of your menopause.  In fact, do it for your family and those around you.


For more information on menopause go to Menopause Education.

Is Your Exercise Program Promoting Breast Cancer?


Expert’s Name: Gail Edgell
Breast Cancer Awareness Month

At the Third American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in September 2010, new findings were reported.

It was found that if an African American woman exercised vigorously for more than two hours a week it reduced her risk of developing breast cancer by 64 percent. But there is a catch, reduction in breast cancer was only found in POST menopausal women, not in pre-menopausal women.

Dr. Vanessa Sheppard, a researcher at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center stated this was a very small sample but shows some promising results. Vigorous exercise also helps other risk factors such as hyptertension or elevated sugar levels. It is unknown why the same benefit was not exhibited in pre-menopausal women. More studies will need to be conducted to find out whether these women have any reduction in cancer.

If a women exercised moderately, her risk decreased by 17%. As Dr. Sheppard stated, this was only a pilot study and more research needs to be conducted to make final conclusions.

It just shows once again another benefit of exercise. As I have said in the past, if your goal is to sit on the couch, you are not going to find too many researched studies supporting a sedentary life. There are hundreds of benefits to exercise and it is just a matter of making the commitment to yourself. Consult with your doctor before starting a program. I don’t care if you just take a walk for 10 minutes at the end of your day. Making a habit of it is key. Once it is a habit, it is a lot easier to add time and intensity to your program.

New Vitamin D Recommendations – Who is it Really Helping? Hmmm…

Expert’s Name: Gail Edgell
Big pharma gets their hands in the pot???


Expert’s Name: Gail Edgell
Big pharma gets their hands in the pot

I am sure you have seen the news this week. The Institute of Medicine just released new Vitamin D recommendations from 200 IU’s a day to 600 IU’s a day…800 IU’s a day for elderly.

So is this a step in the right direction? Perhaps, but 600 IU’s a day still leaves much of the population deficient.

This is why I always stress to everyone to have their Vitamin D levels checked. And if you are deficient, don’t let your family physician tell you that taking a pharmaceutical Vitamin D formula will cure the issue. I will tell you why in a moment.

You have to remember a few things. The Vitamin D scientific research reveals that a deficiency can cause cancer, osteoporosis, depression, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disorders and depression. All of which are major players in the pharmaceutical industry making millions.

So in my opinion, the pharmaceutical industry wants to keep their skin in the game in two ways: making modest recommendations that we know will not cure most the of 70% of whites and 97% of African Americans who are deficient and second by manufacturing Vitamin D3, so that people are not getting it from their local natural food store (very inexpensive by the way). Instead are told they need to purchase it from their pharmacy. Who benefits, big pharma. Get it.

By the way, if you are buying Vitamin D3 over the counter, be sure that you are buying a quality product that is free of fillers, dyes, etc. Typically, Vitamin D will be in an oil capsule or droplet formula.

On top of all of this, the government issued a warning to everyone against overdosing on Vitamin D. They consider this to be anything over 4000IU’s. I can almost guarantee you that once you get your levels tested, you are going to have to take at least this amount to get your levels into a normal range. Especially if you live in the north during the winter months.

To learn more about Vitamin D research studies go to

I would love to know your thoughts.

Oil of Oregano Each Day Will?

Oil of Oregano Each Day Will?

Expert’s Name: Gail Edgell
Calling all meat lovers?

Most of us are aware that if we eat undercooked meat or heat meat at high temperatures it can cause harmful effects such as e-coli and cancer. Well, a report out of the University of Arizona has found a link with carvacrol, an oil similar to oregano.

Food microbiologist Sadhana Ravishankar has studied food borne bacteria since the outbreak in 1993 with Jack in the Box restaurants. She found that by adding oil of oregano to meat before it is cooked prevented 78 percent of cancer causing compounds to form.

We have known for quiet sometime that oil of oregano when ingested has anti-microbial effects. It can help with intestinal parasites and even yeast overgrowth issues which is a major problem with menopausal women. This is typically one of th causes of gas, bloating and other stomach issues. One study found 77 percent of individuals who took oil of oregano for six weeks were parasite free.

This is certainly a step in the right direction since we are now using chemical treatments to avoid food borne illnesses.

More studies will need to be conducted to determine dosage levels. Tests will also need to be conducted with dried and fresh oregano.

But in the future, you may see the food industry and the consumer paying a bit more attention to oil of oregano.

This study was sited at Life Extension Daily News

The Risks of Breast Cancer – Are You at Risk?

The Risks of Breast Cancer – Are You at Risk?

Know the Causes of Breast Cancer to Save You
Interviewer: Gail Edgell

Gail Edgell: We are going to talk about an important topic to women, particularly those over the age of 40: breast cancer. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dr. Boham: Yes. As we all know, breast cancer is very common, unfortunately. We know that last year over 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 60,000 cases of noninvasive breast cancer were diagnosed. We know that a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer increases as she gets older. A woman’s lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is 1 in 8 — we’ve all heard that statistic. We are working hard at detecting breast cancer earlier and getting better treatments for women who have had breast cancer. But today, we are going to really focus on what we can all do to decrease our risk of getting breast cancer and maybe preventing it.

Gail Edgell: What is the first thing that someone can do?

Dr. Boham: We know that estrogen exposure over a lifetime has an influence on the risk of getting breast cancer. We get estrogen from many different places. We get estrogen from our ovaries before we go through menopause. When you have more periods in your lifetime — if you go through menopause later, or if you start having your periods earlier, or if you don’t have any children — your risk of getting breast cancer is higher. Those cycles increase estrogen exposure over your lifetime.

Another place that we get estrogen is from body fat. This is especially important for postmenopausal women — they stop getting estrogen from their ovaries, so their No. 1 source of estrogen is body fat. As a woman’s percentage of body fat increases, her risk of getting breast cancer increases. We think that is because of an enzyme in the body fat called aromatase. That enzyme takes hormones that are made in the body, maybe from the adrenal glands, and converts them into estrogen. The more body fat a woman has, the more estrogen she has in her bloodstream. That has been associated with a significant risk of getting breast cancer.

As I said, that is especially true for postmenopausal women. A recent nurses’ health study showed that if a woman gains 22 pounds after menopause, she increases her risk of getting breast cancer by 18 percent. If a woman gains more than 55 pounds after the age of 18, she increases her risk of getting breast cancer by 45 percent. On the other hand, if a woman loses 22 pounds after menopause, she lowers her risk of getting breast cancer by 57 percent. So if you lose weight after menopause, you can actually decrease your risk of getting breast cancer. The most important thing you can do is maintain or decrease your weight.

Gail Edgell: What else can women do?

Dr. Boham: We know we get estrogen from other places as well, that you can get estrogen from outside the body. That is why there is a lot of concern about our environmental exposure to chemicals and toxins that can mimic estrogen in the body.

A lot of us have heard about the hard plastic (No. 7), which has BPA in it. That plastic can mimic estrogen in the body and increase the risk of breast cancer. Avoiding hard-plastic water bottles, storing food in plastic — these things may be important for decreasing risk. It’s also important to avoid pesticides from the environment. Buy organic and avoid putting any pesticides on lawns or in gardens — they can increase a woman’s risk. They actually can mimic an estrogen in the body and attach to an estrogen receptor. That is where doctors think there is an association with some of these chemicals and a woman’s risk of breast cancer. This is an area where we need to research, research, research. It’s very interesting and probably has a lot to do with why we are getting all sorts of cancers.

Gail Edgell: What else can a woman do?

Dr. Boham: We know that there is another important hormone in the body that has a big influence on our risk of getting all sorts of cancers, especially breast cancer. That hormone is insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that helps the body maintain a good blood-sugar level. If we develop a resistance to our own insulin over the years, we might have higher levels of insulin floating around. Those higher levels of insulin have been strongly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. If you have heard the term “insulin resistance,” then you know what we are talking about.

Insulin resistance is a process that occurs in the body when it doesn’t respond to insulin as well. This is a pre-diabetic type of situation — blood sugar may be totally normal, but the body has to make a lot more insulin than normal to keep that blood sugar in a normal range. That high level of insulin stimulates us to gain weight, but it also stimulates the growth of other things in the body. Therefore, we know that insulin resistance is tied to many different cancers, especially breast cancer.

There are many things you can do to improve your insulin sensitivity, such as getting more fiber in your diet and preventing a high-blood-sugar response after you eat. Avoiding processed foods and making sure that carbohydrates are complex and full of fiber decreases the amount of insulin that is produced. And you need to make sure you have protein at every meal.

When you exercise, you become more sensitive to your own body’s insulin. There are many studies that show a positive association with lack of exercise and an increased risk of breast cancer. To put it another way, as you exercise more, your risk of breast cancer decreases.

Gail Edgell: Do you think cardiovascular exercises or strength-training exercises .

Dr. Boham: Yes, both are important. A lot of research has shown that cardiovascular exercises are important. But some good research shows that strength-training exercises are also important for decreasing risk. In general, it is recommended that women try to get in three to five hours of good exercise a week to decrease their risk in terms of breast cancer.

Gail Edgell: Goodness, that is a lot, especially with this age group. They are busy with their own families. Really, they need to be committed and put workouts on their calendars as something they need to do, just as they would with customers. But they’re appointments with themselves.

Dr. Boham: Many times, you are right. Exercise needs to be something that you do every day. It’s just as important as brushing your teeth and taking a shower. Getting in some daily exercise has a huge impact on your health and decreasing your risk.

Gail Edgell: What about alcohol and breast-cancer risk?

Dr. Boham: There is interesting research that has been pretty conclusive. Unfortunately, alcohol intake increases the risk of breast cancer. A lot of us like to relax at the end of the night and have a glass of wine with dinner. And in moderation, that can be OK. But as a woman’s alcohol intake goes up, so does her risk of breast cancer. We see that alcohol can do many different things in the body, and this may be why it is occurring. The depletion of B vitamins from alcohol may be one reason that an increase in alcohol increases a woman’s risk. Some researchers have been looking into whether having one or two glasses of wine a day is OK for women taking B vitamins, but we are not really sure. It may also be that alcohol intake increases insulin or percentage of body fat. But there is a pretty strong relationship between alcohol intake and breast cancer.

In general, we recommend that women have one or less drinks a day, or five or less a week. Just remember that one drink is 5 ounces of wine, 1½ ounces of hard alcohol or 12 ounces of beer. Sometimes this is hard to remember when you pour yourself a glass of wine. But in terms of breast-cancer prevention, you need to try to stay within those guidelines.

Gail Edgell: I know this age group of women starts to have issues with their guts. Does that have any link to cancer risk, especially breast cancer?

Dr. Boham: This is an area that we focus on a lot in functional medicine. We look at how all the different systems in the body interrelate and have an influence on risks for different diseases. I find this area very interesting when you look at the research of the digestive system and risk of breast cancer.

There have been some studies that have looked at how a woman’s risk of breast cancer increases with more antibiotic use over her lifetime. Some of the theories for that are that it influences microbiota. Microbiota are all of the good bacteria that line the digestive tract — the intestines, the stomach, the digestive system. We have about 2 to 3 pounds of good bacteria in each of our bodies. Those are 2 to 3 pounds that we don’t want to get rid of — they are really good bacteria that help the immune system and with digestion. They also help detoxify and eliminate estrogen from the body.

When the body has used up its estrogen, whether it’s an estrogen that has been produced in the body or an estrogen we have taken, it needs to be broken down and gotten rid of through the digestive system, in the stool. We think that if there’s not the right balance of good bacteria in the gut, it may influence how the body gets rid of estrogen and other toxins. It may be that when there’s an imbalance in the digestive flora, the body may reabsorb some of that estrogen, increasing that estrogen level in the body. That is a theory, something that we are really looking into.

Something that I always focus on when I am seeing patients is their digestive systems. Are they having an easy time with eating foods? Are the foods digesting easily? Are they having good bowel movements? For some people, that may mean taking a probiotic, or some of that good bacteria, to help their digestive systems work better.

Gail Edgell: Are there any other things, Dr. Boham, that we can educate women on regarding breast cancer?

Dr. Boham: One really important vitamin that we have not talked about yet is Vitamin D. Women can ask their doctors to check their Vitamin D levels — the test they want their doctors to order is the 25 OH Vitamin D level.We’d like that level around 45 to 60 or 70 nanograms per milliliter. Many, many women are deficient in Vitamin D. Getting enough Vitamin D, either from moderate sun exposure or a supplement, can be really helpful in terms of decreasing the risk of breast cancer.

Gail Edgell: Dr. Ellie Campbell actually lectured on Vitamin D for another audio/article. So listeners and readers can get more information if they are interested.

Dr. Boham: Great. It’s important for women to continue to get to know their breasts. That means not only going for their yearly checkups with their own physicians but doing monthly breast exams themselves. Many women find their own breast cancers. They find them earlier when they are doing monthly breast exams. That is important for women to remember.

Gail Edgell: Can we summarize what our audience should have learned today regarding breast cancer and how they can minimize the risk?

Dr. Boham: The No. 1 thing that you can do is to maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, work hard to get that percentage of body fat down to a normal range. You can do that by getting three to five hours of exercise a week; cutting out refined and processed foods; choosing more whole foods; choosing more foods that are higher in fiber; making sure that you have a good protein source at each meal to help balance blood sugar; avoiding toxins from the environment like pesticides and fruits, vegetables, meats and milk that are not organic; avoiding as much plastic as you can; and perhaps taking a probiotic. Lastly, really be conscious of the amount of alcohol that you are consuming. Keep it to less than one drink a day.

Note: This article is an edited transcript of an audio interview. Changes have been made.

Risk Factors for Cancer

Interviewer: Gail Edgell

Gail Edgell: What can you tell us about cancer risk as women age, especially during their menopausal years?

Dr. Chilkov: The statistics in the United States are not good. Today, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with cancer. We expect, decades from now, that will be 1 in 6 women. Why is this so? We all now live in a very toxic environment. We are all exposed to very toxic chemicals. This really increases the risk for everyone, even those who have no family history of cancer.

There are a number of things that we all can do to reduce our risk of developing cancer. One is to reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals in food, water and the environment. You want to look at the cleaning supplies that you use in your home. You want to look at what you are using in your garden. You want to look at the food that you are eating. You want to be eating organic, unprocessed, fresh, whole food when you have that choice. You don’t want to eat packaged, processed foods that have preservatives and artificial chemicals and flavorings in them.

You have a choice. Make the choice to avoid exposing yourself to chemicals. This is one of the biggest things that every single person can do to reduce cancer risk.

Gail Edgell: Is it true that if the word “organic” is on the label, that item is definitely better for people? This organic thing is really getting blown out of proportion. Everything is labeled “organic,” even Pop Tarts.

Dr. Chilkov: You have to read labels. You have to actually turn the box over and read the list of ingredients — maybe the item has one organic ingredient, and the rest are chemicals. We are in a marketing-and-consumer society. Labeling is not well regulated. You can certainly stick with brands that are highly ethical and known to use pure ingredients. But I think that we still have to be responsible consumers and turn the box over, read the label and see what is really in it.

I want to talk about how to choose foods that not only reduce our exposure but also reduce cancer risks. One of the things that everybody can do is eat six to eight servings of deeply colored or deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables a day. That is not as hard to do as it may seem. A serving is a good handful. Why is this so important? The pigments that color fruits and vegetables — blueberries, strawberries, carrots, spinach, pomegranates — are molecules called flavones and flavonoids, which actually turn off cancer genes. They actually stop damage to our cells. This is how human beings evolved, eating a lot of plant foods. But the standard American diet is not high in fruits and vegetables; it also is not high in lots of colors.

For people who have busy lives or find this difficult to do, another option is a greens powder or a reds powder that you can find in your health-food store. You can put a scoop of that in your water once or twice a day and get all those wonderful pigments that come from fruits and vegetables. It’s a great insurance policy. You can get up in the morning and put a scoop of powder in a glass of water, and you have at least some of your antioxidants for the day.

Gail Edgell: I know what I will do if I am running short: I will stick a bunch of it into a blender and make myself a shake. I am getting three or four servings at once.

Dr. Chilkov: You can do that or use fresh juices, absolutely. There are lots of ways to do it.

Among the vegetables, the cabbage family, or cruciferous vegetables, is very, very important in terms of cancers. Within that family, broccoli, kale and broccoli sprouts are the most potent. A constituent called sulforaphane is found in this whole plant family, the cabbage family — which includes radishes, cabbage, parsnips, cauliflower and brussels sprouts — that actually changes our estrogen metabolism. It changes the growth of cancer cells. It’s very simple to have a serving of steamed broccoli, broccoli sprouts or kale in your diet on a daily basis. It is incredibly protective. I highly recommend this for normalizing estrogen metabolism, so that estrogen is detoxified in the body and not allowed to stimulate cells toward cancer. This is a specific way to reduce breast, ovarian and uterine cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

Gail Edgell: Is there a problem with steaming something, or putting it in the oven? Will it kill things that are beneficial to you?

Dr. Chilkov: Lightly steaming broccoli, broccoli sprouts and kale gives you the most access to the sulforaphane in the food, moreso than having it raw. But overcooking will destroy a lot of nutrients.

I will also say that this family of sulforaphanes has the well-known molecule di-indole methane, abbreviated as DIM. It can also be used for premenstrual syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, fibroids, endometriosis and other problems of estrogen metabolism. They are well treated with this. DIM comes in a capsule, but it’s pretty easy to get your dose by eating some steamed broccoli or kale every day.

Gail Edgell: What other supplements can we take?

Dr. Chilkov: The omega-3 oils, EPA and DHA, primarily come from cold-water fish. You also will find them in flax oil. You will see lots of these oils for sale in the natural food store. You should really keep these oils in the refrigerator once you purchase them. You also can take them in capsule form. I like to mix flax oil and olive oil together and use that in my salads. That way, I will get more omega-3s in my diet.

Taking omega-3 oils is one of the most powerful ways to reduce inflammation and reduce the growth of cancer cells. Omega-3 oils have many, many other functions that I am not going to discuss at length. But the most important reason that omega-3s decrease cancer risk is because they decrease inflammation. Cancer is an inflammatory disease; by decreasing that inflammation, we decrease our cancer risk. These oils also build very healthy cell membranes, decrease the expression of certain cancer genes, and slow down the growth of tumors. For those reasons, they decrease cancer risk as well. They help normalize some of our insulin and blood-sugar issues, which can contribute to increased cancer risk.

I believe that people who are familiar with these oils have heard about them in terms of reducing cardiovascular risk as well as depression. But all of my cancer patients have omega-3 oils as a part of their protocol. These oils can be taken safely during chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Gail Edgell: I have never heard a negative thing about omega-3s.

Dr. Chilkov: If they get rancid, they are not good for you. So you want to keep them in the refrigerator. And you do not want to use them if they’ve been around for a long time.

They really should be part of the human diet; they are just not really a part of the modern diet.

Gail Edgell: Are there any other supplements that you would recommend?

Dr. Chilkov: There are two more things that I want to discuss. Vitamin D is very important. Vitamin D has been in the press quite a lot. A safe dose, if you are taking it on your own, is 1,000 units a day. In a doctor’s office, you will see much higher doses. But you really don’t want to go higher than that without the supervision of a professional. Many of my patients take 5,000 to 10,000 units a day. But they have to be under supervision, with a professional monitoring their blood levels.

Vitamin D really reduces the risk of quite a number of diseases. It’s very well documented that it blocks the development of many types of cancer. We also know that Vitamin D will strengthen our bones. It will also help to alleviate depression, particularly winter depression. But in terms of cancer, it really regulates cell growth. I will say that Vitamin D is also very important for treating a lot of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, arthritis and thyroiditis.

People really are not getting enough Vitamin D today. It’s made in the skin with exposure to sunlight. But people use sunscreen so much that they have inhibited the natural levels of Vitamin D. Therefore, most of my patients will take Vitamin D in the capsule form.

Gail Edgell: I have heard a lot about Vitamin D on the news lately. It’s definitely getting a lot of exposure. You had one other thing that you wanted to discuss?

Dr. Chilkov: This is really, really important. But I don’t think a lot of people understand the relationship of body fat to cancer risk. If you are overweight, that is a risk factor for developing cancer. By keeping your body lean, you will reduce your risk of cancer in a dramatic way. Overweight and obese women have a much higher risk of developing cancer and having recurrences of cancer.

Gail Edgell: At the very beginning, we discussed the percentage of women who will get cancer. It’s about 1 in 8 women. Is that the number of women who develop all cancers?

Dr. Chilkov: That statistic is specific to breast cancer. The ratio would be higher if we included all cancers.

Gail Edgell: Can you review ways for us to reduce our risk of cancer?

Dr. Chilkov: We want to reduce our exposure to toxins in the environment by choosing clean food and water as well as nontoxic cosmetics and cleaning supplies. We want to increase our intake of deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables every day. We want to be sure to include the cabbage family, or cruciferous vegetables, so that we get sulforaphanes and DIM. The richest in sulforaphanes and DIM are broccoli, broccoli sprouts and kale. We want to increase our intake of omega-3 fatty acids — EPA and DHA. We want to be sure that our blood levels of Vitamin D are adequate. And we want to reduce our body fat and have a normal, lean body weight.

Note: This article is an edited transcript of an audio interview. Changes have been made.