Research Projects

Putative chemo-preventative properties bio-identical hormones – Dr Donita Africander

Putative chemo-preventative properties bio-identical hormones – Dr Donita Africander

Dr Donita Africander

Donita Africander

Donita Africander

Title of the project

Putative chemo-preventative properties of bio-identical hormones.

Project Description

Hormone  replacement  therapy  (HRT)  is  commonly  prescribed  to  alleviate  menopausal  symptoms experienced by women due to a decrease in estrogen levels. These symptoms include hot flushes, bone loss and vaginal dryness. HRT includes administration of either estrogen alone or estrogen combined with a synthetic progestin. The latter treatment is used for menopausal women with an intact uterus so as to prevent endometrial cancer caused by estrogen. However, recent clinical evidence showing increased risk for invasive breast cancer and cardiovascular disease with the use of HRT caused much confusion and alarm amongst HRT users. As a result many postmenopausal women have stopped using conventional HRT, and are seeking alternate “safer” treatments, and thus often request “bio-identical” hormones as therapy. These drugs are produced by compounding pharmacies and are promoted as “identical” to the hormones produced by a woman’s body, and the phrase “bio-identical hormone replacement therapy” (BHRT) has been used to describe these drugs. Claims are made that the “natural” compounded BHRT products  are  a  safer  alternative  to  conventional  HRT  because  they  lack  the  risks  and  side-effects  of conventional HRT drugs. Moreover, it has been claimed that compounded BHRT products can be used to prevent illnesses such as breast and colon cancers. However, there is no scientific evidence to corroborate these claims. This study investigated the possible beneficial role of “bio-identical” hormones in breast cancer.

Value

The results show that the activities of all the bio-identical hormones are similar to the activities of the natural hormones. However, for the most part, the activities of the synthetic hormones differ from that of the natural and bio-identical hormones. In summary, the current experimental evidence suggests that the bio-identical hormones would not offer protection against breast cancer.  To fully understand the effects of bioidentical hormones on breast cancer, more basic research is needed at the molecular level as well as large-scale systematic comparisons in women taking different bioidentical hormones for HRT.

Abstracts and Poster

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