First it was Suzanne Somers. Now it’s Oprah and Robin McGraw, the wife of Dr. Phil, who are lauding the wonders of bioidentical hormones.

As we explain on our website, bioidentical hormones are defined as hormones that are chemically identical to the ones our own bodies make.  This is to differentiate them from Premarin, which is derived from pregnant mares’ urine and other chemical variations on women’s hormones. I often hear people say that because bioidenticals are “natural,” they must be safe and effective.  This, unfortunately, is not backed up by any data.  No large studies have been done on these hormones, nor have any studies been done on the hormone combinations made in compounding pharmacies.  This doesn’t mean that they are not safe, but it also does not mean that they are!

It is disconcerting to see Oprah and others promoting the idea that bioidentical hormones are safe. We know that there is a direct correlation between a postmenopausal woman’s estrogen and testosterone levels and her breast cancer risk. More importantly, studies have found that women who have high estrogen levels (and what could be more “natural” than a woman’s own hormones?) have denser breast tissue, a known risk factor for cancer. Also, the one study that looked specifically at micronized progesterone (the type that is believed to be “bioidentical”) rather than the more commonly used progestins also found an increase in breast density.

Oprah is absolutely right when she says that women’s hormones have not been given enough attention. But we disagree when it comes to the idea that bioidenticals are the way to go. There is a reason that menopause is programmed in to women’s bodies. We need high levels of hormones to reproduce. Then, our hormones shift down to a safer level for the second half of life. The shift down, just like the shift up at puberty, can cause symptoms, like hot flashes, for many women. But just like the moodiness and pimples you probably had during puberty, they don’t last forever.
Recent studies have shown that it’s only safe to be on “non-bioidentical” hormone replacement therapy for about two years. (Read my blog entry Menopausal Hormones—Back in the News to learn more about these studies.) There is absolutely NO reason to believe it is any different for bioidentical hormones. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

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5 Responses to Oprah Jumps on the Bio Bandwagon

  1. Marilyn says:

    I had DCIS and had very dense breast, I have migranes also which are believed to be related to my hormones(estrogen)I worry for my daughters who seem to be similar to myself

  2. Linda says:

    I was using the Wiley protocol – a bioidentical hormone protocol and was diagnosed recently with breast cancer. I was on the protocol for 2.5 years and my cancer is ER/PR positive. I know several other woman in their early fifties who were diagnosed with breast cancer while using bioidenticals. I think Wiley is a total dangerous fraud. Dr. Love is correct in her analysis. We still have not found the fountain of youth.

  3. Deirdre says:

    I use to think that progesterone response in the PR+ situation meant the same as ER+. In that with ER+ the cancer is fed by estrogens (so meaning that PR+ meant that the cancer was fed by progesterone), but in doing some studies I have realized that there is really no understanding of the role bio- or HRT progesterone plays. It certainly is reactive to progesterone but from there I can’t make out if it is dangerous or actually safe.. Does anyone know??

  4. Bonnie says:

    I had it all! Hot flashes where the steam from my body fogged my eye glasses, night sweats that were so vicious that I had to change my sheets, irritability, vaginal dryness and crying jags and memory loss.

    After experiencing many bleeding problems using HRT, using various types of other alternatives and having to undergo an emergency D&C, I finally weened myself off all drugs.

    I still have flashes and yes, they are annoying.

    I joined an organization called the
    Red Hat Society, which is a group of ladies that are 50 years and older. They taught me to stop fighting the changes in my body, which only makes it worse and “embrace the flash.” LOL. I now carry a hankerchief in my purse, laced with lavender to calm my nerves and a lovely spanish fan, to gently cool myself when flashing. I’ve learned to deal with the annoyance.

    I continue to get my mamograms.

  5. Billie says:

    I am 58 and have never used birth control pills or HRT with no breast cancer history in my family. Recently I developed breast cancer, fortunately it was stage one, grade 2. After lumpectomy and raditation my DR recommends tamoxifen for 5 years. The side affects concern me greatly. My menses stopped 5 years ago and was told by another DR that I was through with menopause. However, pathology reports now indicate that may not be the case. What options do I have in Harmone blocking therapies?

    I would also like to know how adding the natural bioidential hormones would assist in blocking any ER driven cancer cells. He cannot answer my questions.

    Why haven’t studies be done on these products? Does it relate to it being natural and their is little money in it for the drug companies? Also what about all the chemicals and hormones we are exposed to in our diets and environment? I’m very perplexed. Thank you.

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