Experts presenting their review of HRT studies at the World Congress on the Menopause, Madrid, this week recommended that HRT for women in early menopause is safe after all.
Yet, comments Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD, the UK’s leading authority on natural health for women, their findings relating to the 50-59 age group acknowledge that there is still an increase in breast cancer risk associated with taking HRT.
Dr Glenville, President for the Food & Health Forum at The Royal Society of Medicine, is author of one of complementary medicines retailer The Nutri Centre’s best selling health books, The New Natural Alternatives to HRT, which looks at how to stay healthy through the menopause and prevent osteoporosis.
She comments: “A slight increase in the risk of breast cancer is still an increase.
“If women can take natural remedies that help them through this transition naturally then why take something that can increase the risk of breast cancer at all. Menopause is not an illness; it is a normal life stage, which has symptoms that can be eased without increasing health risks.”
Dr Glenville cites a particularly significant piece of research published in the National Cancer Institute Bulletin in 2007 (4,2).
“Researchers looked at breast cancer rates in the year following publication of the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative results that had scared women off taking HRT. They found that the rate of breast cancer dropped by 12 per cent in 2003 among 50-69 year old women: the largest single drop in breast cancer incidence within a single year.
“Their thinking is that the scare caused some women to stop HRT and others to avoid starting on it, so fuelling fewer cases of the cancer.”
Dr Glenville advises three key steps to reduce your risk of breast cancer:
1) Maintain a healthy body weight through a good diet because fat cells produce more oestrogen.
2) Minimise your alcohol intake and even if you only have one drink a day, have a few days off to give your liver a break. Recent research has again proved that alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.
3) Take regular exercise. A 2007 study that tracked 220,000 women for 6.5 years showed that all forms of exercise reduce breast cancer. The strongest link to a reduction in risk was with housework, perhaps because it is done most regularly. (Journal of Cancer Epidemiology & Biomarkers Prevention, vol 16,36-42.)
Major studies have shown that even one and a half servings of red meat per day can double the risk of breast cancer (Archives of Internal Medicine, 2006).
All meats and poultry produce heterocyclic amines which are formed when the food is cooked, increasing the risk of breast and colon cancer in women. Barbecued food is particularly bad, the higher the temperature, the more of these is produced.
“To reduce cancer risks it is better to include protein from fish and eggs, and from phyto-oestrogen rich foods such as soya, chick peas and lentils, and a portion of cruciferous vegetable each day. The benefit is greater if your vegetables are neither raw nor over-cooked but rather lightly cooked, ideally steamed,” explains Dr. Glenville.
The ideal diet should include phyto-oestrogens in foods because the Japanese have one sixth the rate of breast cancer that we have in the UK. Some studies show that a diet rich in soya gives a 14% reduction in breast cancer (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2006).
According to JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), consuming one and a half cups of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage each day reduces the cancer risk by 25 per cent.
Another risk for which menopausal women were given HRT was to reduce osteoporosis. For those not on HRT, it is important to get adequate doses of vitamin D says Dr Glenville.
“In the past year, vitamin D has been shown to have a particularly beneficial effect on cancers as a whole, and in particular on breast cancer. The American Journal of Public Health, 2006 showed that sufficient vitamin D could halve the risk of developing breast cancer and cancers as a whole.
“Many women are using skincare products and make-up with built-in sun protection factors all year round, so we are seeing greater deficiencies than ever before. We should be getting a little healthy dose of sunshine for about 15 minutes a day and to ensure we get enough all year round, take a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement containing vitamin D.”
The Nutri Centre, one of the UK’s leading resources for dietary supplements and complementary remedies, offers a wide range of women’s health books and supplements containing the vital nutrients recommended by Dr Glenville:
Try Meno Plus (priced £19.97 for 60 capsules), a special multi vitamin and mineral supplement formulated to help women through the menopause and support good bone health. At this stage in their lives women need additional support for their bones as osteoporosis is on the increase and, once diagnosed, is very difficult to treat. Meno Plus not only contains essential multi-vitamins and minerals but also additional calcium and digestive enzymes. Another side effect of the menopause is the reduction in digestive enzymes so these have been added to help absorption. For maximum benefit Meno Plus should be taken with Black Cohosh Plus.
Black Cohosh Plus (priced £14.97 for 60 capsules) is a special herbal formulation for women over the age of 40. It contains Agnus Castus, Black Cohosh, Dong Quai, Red Sage and Milk Thistle which combine to help women through this stage in their lives.
Dr Marilyn Glenville has written eight books on women’s health, including The New Natural Alternatives to HRT, priced £12.99, also available from The Nutri Centre.
The Nutri Centre’s nutritionist-manned advice line and stores are contacted regularly by women seeking nutritional guidance, books and supplements to help see them through the menopause without resorting to HRT. Visit www.nutricentre.com to order on-line or locate a store nearby, or call 020 7436 5122 to speak to a qualified nutritionist.
For further press information about The Nutri Centre or to contact Dr Marilyn Glenville:
Lindsay Stewart, Oakhurst PR, Tel 01494 712171 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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