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Cancer and Hormonal
Michael Lam, MD, MPH
Many cancers are hormonal related.
Estrogen dominance may be accountable for breast, prostate, cervix, endometrial,
uterine, and ovarian cancer, for example. Many researchers attribute
the high incidence of these cancers to the ubiquitous presence of environmental
estrogen (also called xenobiotics) that is present in our food such as commercially
raised poultry and cattle; pesticides; and common household goods such as plastics
that contain estrogen like compounds.
Phyto-estrogens such as soy
are natural weak estrogen from food that is has 1/500 the potency of estrogen
in our body. They work by competitively inhibiting the estrogen receptor
site on the cell membrane, thereby preventing estrogen from exerting its effect
on the cell. These phytoestrogen also exert a weak estrogen effect by themselves
and therefore intake should be monitored to avoid excessive estrogen in the
body. Hormone replacement must be taken with care since some cancers are hormone
In addition to phytoestrogen, natural progesterone
can act as a counterbalancing force to estrogen and can be considered for those
with cancer due to estrogen dominance.
Other hormones that have anti-cancer effect include DHEA
1. Soy Powder - Isoflavone:
popular in recent years is soy products, a plant-based phytoestrogen that is
500 times weaker than the body's estrogen. The active ingredient is isoflavone,
which acts as a competitive inhibitor of regular estrogen. By binding itself
to the cell's estrogen receptor site, the body's estrogen is unable to penetrate.
The estrogen load in the body is reduced.
More than 1,000 medical and scientific papers have been published on isoflavones
and soy. There are three primary isoflavones in soybeans: genistein, daidzain,
and glycitein. In various experimental models, isoflavones have exhibited properties
that suggest they may help to lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis,
and for the relief of menopause symptoms such as hot flashes. In addition to
breast cancer, soybean isoflavones may help reduce the risk of several types
of cancer, including lung, colon and rectal cancer.
Soybean powder contains a high amount of genistein.
Genistein is an antioxidant that may inhibit the formation of new
blood vessel, thereby inhibiting tumor growth.
Dosage: 45 gram of soybean powder. Soy products have been heavily promoted
in recent years. It should be noted that unless soy is fermented (such as miso
or tempeh), intake of unfermented soy (such as tofu) could do more harm than
good in our body due to its toxic metabolites if excess amount is taken.
Isoflavone extract do not have this problem and should be considered instead.
2. Diindolylmethane (DIM)
Estrogen dominance is a major cause and precursor to many hormonal related cancers
such as breast, cervix, endometrial, and ovarian and prostate cancer.
Elevated estrogen level can be neutralized by reduction of estrogen exposure
through a proper wholesome fresh whole food diet, especially a diet rich in
cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Bok
choi, and Brussels sprouts. Take at least 3-
5 servings of these important vegetables a day.
Fortunately, scientists are able to isolate the active ingredient of cruciferous
vegetables. It is called Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C). Unfortunately, I3C has drawbacks.
Numerous studies have shown that I3C, and in particular its reaction product
ICZ, are associated with a number of unwanted activities that are not compatible
with safe, long-term use. I3C supplementation
is not recommended. Fortunately, I3C
combines with stomach acid to form 3,3-Diindolylmethane (DIM). DIM supplementation
is available. It is safe.
DIM is a balancer of estrogen metabolism.
Let us review the pathway of estrogen metabolism first. Estrogen
is metabolized in the liver. One of its metabolites - 16 alpha hydroxyl estrone
- is a carcinogenic metabolite implicated in propagating and promoting many
hormone-sensitive cancers. Studies have shown that it was not the absolute amount
of it, but the ratio of another estrogen metabolite called 2 hydroxy estrone
to 16 alpha hydroxy estrone, that was the more important predictor of cancer
risk. The 2 hydroxy estrone is therefore known as the good or protective estrogen,
and the 16 alpha hydroxy estrone has been deemed to be the bad or carcinogenic
estrogen. One of the most efficient and healthiest ways to increase the ratio
of these estrogen metabolites in favor of the good estrogen is to eat large
quantities of cruciferous vegetables or take DIM supplements.
Over 40 studies on DIM are on file in the National Library of Medicine database.
As little as 0.5- 2 mg mg/kg body weight/day
of DIM has been demonstrated as an effective dose. DIM
can be used in conjunction with phytoestrogen such as isoflavones. Its use is
cautioned in women taking the oral contraceptive as it theoretically may reduce
The use of DIM is compatible with other phyto-nutrients
such as soy, black choosy, red clover, and chaste berry extract.
Isoflavone and DIM work under different pathways. While studies have shown that
supplementation with 200 mg/day of soy isoflavones increase the production of
estrogen metabolites, the effect is much less than that seen with absorbable
DIM. From a nutritional supplementation perspective, both
DIM and isoflavone supplement should be considered, both in optimum and not
It inhibits breast cancer growth in both estrogen positive and estrogen negative
cancer growth. It works well together with tamoxifen and inhibits angiogenesis.
Dosage: 40-60 mg once or twice a day.
It also stimulates progesterone level when progesterone level is
low. DIM is 10 x the potency of I3C.
Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower,
Brussels sprouts and bok choi, are good sources of phtyo-estrogen. These acts as competitive
inhibitors of estrogen in our body and reduces the amount of circulating estrogen responsible for
promoting breast, cervical, ovarian, and uterine cancer. In fact, the only approach to breast cancer
prevention other than early diagnosis endorsed by the medical establishment is use of the drug tamoxifen,
which competes with estrogen for estrogen receptors, similar to the manner in which the phyto-estrogens
in plants do.
Dose: At least 5 servings a day.
4. Natural Progesterone:
Cancers of the breast, ovaries and uterus account for 40% of cancer incidence
in U.S. women. Breast cancer is a silent epidemic, striking 1 in 9 women; up
from 1 in 30 women in 1960, before estrogen replacement therapy was popularized.
FDA-approved estrogen drugs have been documented to cause cancer. Published studies have shown that women taking estrogen and a synthetic progesterone
drug had a 32 to 46% increases in their risk of breast cancer. The
relative risk is increased by 20% even after four years of use compared to no
hormone treatment, and that surprisingly there was a 40% increased risk of breast
cancer using both estrogen and synthetic progesterone (called progestin) combined,
compared to only 20% increase for estrogen alone. Clearly the progestin that
is supposing counter-balance the estrogen is not what the body recognizes is
In addition to breast cancer risk, long-term estrogen replacement therapy increased
the risk of fatal ovarian cancer.
A large 7-year study included 240,073 pre- and post-menopausal women focuses
on this. After adjusting for other risk factors, women
who used estrogen for 6 to 8 years had a 40% higher risk of deadly ovarian tumors,
while women who used estrogen drugs for 11 or more years had a startling 70%
higher risk of dying from cancer of the ovaries.
What the body needs is natural progesterone to counter the estrogen effect.
Synthetic progesterones are far different from the natural form and do not have the anti-cancer
properties. Premenopausal women
who were deficient in progesterone had a 5.4 times greater risk of breast cancer.
The use of natural progesterone cream to reverse osteoporosis, prevent
cancer, and modulate estrogen dominance is a key consideration for anyone with hormonal related cancer
such as breast, ovary, and uterine cancer. It use should
also be considered for with benign fibrocystic diseases or fibroids, both of which may be early symptoms
of estrogen dominance that need natural progesterone to counter-balance.
Dosage: 10-30 mg per day.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that
is a precursor primarily of androgens (male hormones) but also of estrogens
(female hormones). Blood levels of DHEA peak at about age 20 and then steadily
decline. Laboratory studies on animals (mice in particular) treated with DHEA
looked younger had glossier coats, and less gray hair. DHEA
prevented breast, colon, and liver cancers and protected against infection by
strengthening the immune system in other studies with mice. Genetically
obese mice given DHEA did not get obese, but DHEA does not appear to increase
weight loss in humans. DHEA reduced the blood sugar in genetically diabetic
mice. In rabbits fed heavy cholesterol diets, DHEA reduced the severity of clogging
of the arteries. Recent studies in elderly people have found that DHEA supplementation
results in overall improvement in their feeling of well being. As a result,
the news media have been touting DHEA as "the first fountain of youth drug".
It is interesting that DHEA produces the same anti-aging effects attributed
to estrogen. It could be that some of the beneficial effects of DHEA are the
result of some of the DHEA being converted into youth hormones such as estrogen
The evidence that DHEA may prevent breast cancer is difficult to evaluate.
Animal studies have shown that DHEA is very effective in preventing breast cancer,
while the human studies have been inconclusive. There are studies showing that
DHEA protects against human breast cancer cell proliferation by blocking estrogen
receptors on breast cells, yet other studies contradict this finding.
There are contradictions in the scientific literature regarding hormone replacement
therapy and cancer. Of the various hormone
replacement therapies women may choose, only melatonin appears to protect against
both estrogen dependent and non-estrogen dependent breast cancer.
Dose: 15-50 mg per day and only under
supervision of a physician.
Every cell in the human body has a gene called the P53 gene.
This gene tracks the degeneration of the cell and when it finds that the cell
is damaged beyond repair, it triggers its self-destruction. The P53 gene
triggers old cells that died through this natural self-destruction process.
New cells are then created through cell division.
It is postulated that melatonin fights cancer
by the re-expression of the P53 gene. With this function re-energized,
the tumor cells recognize their own degenerated state and naturally die on their
own thus allowing the body to manage the process of elimination of the dead
is therefore much more than a natural sleeping
pill. Melatonin's link to cancer was first reported when researchers
discovered that flight attendants have twice the normal rate while blind people
have half the normal rate of breast cancer. Blind people are known to have high
levels of melatonin in their bodies. It is believed that is why blind people
have half the normal rate of breast and other cancers. Flight attendants, on
the other hand, have frequent jet lag and sleep disturbance. They have less
melatonin, which according to researchers, accounts for the twice the normal
rate of breast cancer. Melatonin blocks estrogen receptors on breast cells,
stopping them from proliferating in response to estrogen and other factors that
promote tumor growth. Melatonin also protects breast cell against chemical carcinogens,
free radical damage, cortisol-induced damage, and non-estrogen dependent cellular
changes that lead to breast cancer. Low dose melatonin therapy should be
considered for any breast cancer patient on remission , and high dose for those
with active disease.
In a study involving 63 patients with non-small cell lung cancer refractory to
cisplatin therapy, those receiving 10mg/day of melatonin lived longer on the average than those receiving
supportive care alone (6 vs. 3 months) and more likely to survive for one year (8/31 survivors vs. 3
months). There was no associated drug toxicity. Treatment with 20mg/day of melatonin was also noted to
increase one-year survival than supportive cancer alone in patients with brain metastasis.
Melatonin is used a number of times as an adjunct to standard chemotherapy in humans. In one study using
20mg of melatonin a day, One year survival is significantly higher in-patient receiving adjunctive
melatonin compare to standard chemotherapy alone.
It should also be noted that the doses of melatonin used in these
cancer studies (20-40 mg per night) were considerably higher than the over-the-counter doses (3-6 mg)
recommended for sleep. Those unfamiliar with melatonin dosing should note that the dosage to
induce sleep is highly variable. Many have reported better sleep with lower dose melatonin (0.5 mg to 1
mg) than at high dose (5 mg and up).
Dosage: Breast cancer patient should consider melatonin supplement of at least
3 mg /day while in remission. 50 or more is used for active cancer
patients. It should be taken at bedtime. It usually induces drowsiness and improves the
quality of sleep. A slight increase of dreaming episodes may be experienced as sleep is improved.
Maintaining hormonal balance is a key factor in preventing cancer and reversing
hormone sensitive cancers. Cancers such as breast and prostate cancer are closely linked to
estrogen dominance syndrome. Normalization of estrogen in our body can be achieved naturally with phyto-estrogen
from food such as soy, cruciferous vegetables, and supplements such as DIM. Natural progesterone
cream that counterbalance the estrogen should also be considered.
Melatonin is a natural hormone and a strong-antioxidant.
Its use should be considered for many cancer patients, especially those with
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About The Author
Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H., A.B.A.A.M., is a western trained physician specializing in nutritional and anti-aging medicine. Dr. Lam received his Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California. He also holds a Master’s degree in Public Health. He is board certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine where he has also served as a board examiner. Dr. Lam is a pioneer in using nontoxic, natural compounds to promote the healing of many age-related degenerative conditions. He utilizes optimum blends of nutritional supplementation that manipulate food, vitamins, natural hormones, herbs, enzymes, and minerals into specific protocols to rejuvenate cellular function.
Dr. Lam was first to coin the term, ovarian-adrenal-thyroid (OAT) hormone axis, and to describe its imbalances. He was first to scientifically tie in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) as part of the overall neuroendocrine stress response continuum of the body. He systematized the clinical significance and coined the various phases of Adrenal Exhaustion. He has written five books: Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome - Reclaim Your Energy and Vitality with Clinically Proven Natural Programs, The Five Proven Secrets to Longevity, Beating Cancer with Natural Medicine (Free PDF version), How to Stay Young and Live Longer, and Estrogen Dominance. In 2001, Dr. Lam established www.DrLam.com as a free, educational website on evidence-based alternative medicine for the public and for health professionals. It featured the world’s most comprehensive library on AFS. Provided free as a public service, he has answered countless questions through the website on alternative health and AFS. His personal, telephone-based nutritional coaching services have enabled many around the world to regain control of their health using natural therapies.
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