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Estrogen Metabolism Tests

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Estrogen Metabolism and Broccoli

Q: I have heard that broccoli can help to prevent breast cancer, but is it any more protective to the breasts than zucchini or carrots?

A: Although zucchini and carrots certainly contain nutrients beneficial to health and I recommend including them in your diet regularly, broccoli belongs to a special class of vegetables called cruciferous vegetables. (Also in this family are brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, collard, cabbage, and others).
     Crucifers have a particularly beneficial phytonutrient, called diindolemethane (DIM). DIM has been shown to influence estrogen metabolism in a manner that lessens cancer risk. It may not be estrogen per say that is the danger, but the unfavorable byproducts of estrogen metabolism. They have been related to cancers of the breast, uterus, cervix, colon and prostate as well as lupus, fibrocystic breasts, endometriosis, and PMS.
     Biochemical reactions in the body convert estrogen to several metabolites, some pro-carcinogens (dangerous) and some anti-carcinogens (protective). The dangerous metabolites are 16 alpha hydroxyestrone and 4 hydroxyestrone whereas the favorable ones are 2 hydroxyestradiol and 2 hydroxyestrone.) It is the relative amounts of these metabolites that determine the cancer risk from estrogen. We can measure these in the blood or urine.
     Here is where cruciferous vegetables come in: They can directly shift estrogen metabolism away from the carcinogenic byproducts to the protective byproducts. With regular crucifers in the diet and/or DIM supplements we can actually decrease the risk of estrogen related cancers (and other conditions), and for women who need or desire supplemental estrogen, DIM can increase the safety of hormone replacement therapy .
     Article Addendum: In my practice, I highly recommend testing estrogen metabolism for any women with a family history or prior personal history of breast, uterine or cervical cancer. I recommend it for women currently on hormone replacement therapy (and who want to continue being on hormones) because this information can help assess the risk of hormone treatment. If estrogen therapy is desired or needed and the estrogen metabolite results are not favorable, we are presented with several choice: 1) We can discontinue the hormones and rely on phytonutrition and lifestyle measures or 2) we can attempt, with aggressive nutritional intervention, to make favorable shifts in estrogen metabolism and help counter (again nutritionally) some of the risks from the dangerous metabolites. We retest in 8 weeks. If successful, we can make the choice to remain on hormones, and if not successful we discontinue estrogen. I am beginning to recommend estrogen metabolism testing for all women in my practice.

This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Although the material may help you understand a diagnosis or treatment, it cannot serve as a replacement for the services of a licensed health care practitioner. Any application of the material set forth is at the reader's discretion and sole responsibility.

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