Is Estrogen the Enemy of Women Who Have Had Breast Cancer? A Conversation with Dr. Melody Rodarte, DO


"Estrogen does not increase the risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer is not a disease, as some professionals believe, 'of having too much estrogen in your body.' Even breast cancer survivors may safely take HRT under a doctor's supervision, and it will not increase their risk of recurrence."

That stunning quote is from the back cover of the book, Estrogen Matters: Why Taking Hormones in Menopause Can Improve Women's Well-Being and Lengthen Their Lives—Without Raising the Risk of Breast Cancer by medical oncologist Avrum Bluming, MD, and social psychologist, Carol Tavris, PhD. I was introduced to the book by my former PCP, Dr. Melody Rodarte, DO. It reads like a thriller. The introduction is even called, "Who Killed HRT?"

The authors tell a riveting story. Over 20 years ago, they indicate that a poorly conceived and misinformed study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) swept through the medical community, indicating a causal connection of estrogen and breast cancer and demonizing the use of estrogen to treat menopausal women. 

"... We will show in a close examination of the WHI studies, some of those claims were exaggerated, some were misleading, and some were just wrong—and several of the WHI investigators themselves eventually backed away from them."

The book delivers the goods, names names, and provides more than 50 pages of referenced articles and studies to back up their claims that "estrogen matters." 

"But wait, Jan! My oncologist has told me ... " Yes, I totally understand. Mine has told me the same things.

I sat down with Dr. Rodarte to get her professional perspective about the findings in the book and to open up a very interesting discussion that needs to be had IMO. As an integrative physician, Dr. Rodarte looks at the "whole patient" and puts together health plans that are unique to each individual. The use of HRT needs to be weighed against each individual's personal health history and needs.

You'll hear my story in the interview. Now that I've read the book, I'm sending my onc a copy and asking her to weigh in on the research presented. You might consider doing the same thing. And I made an appointment to discuss HRT with my gyny, too—she's already read the book and is prescribing more HRT to her patients because of it.

This quote in the book says it all.

"All scientific work is incomplete—whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time." —Austin Bradford Hill, 1965 (Hill is the British biostatistician who pioneered the randomized clinical trial)

Friends, when we know better, we do better.

Why should we even consider using estrogen as women who have gone through breast cancer treatment? Here are a few reasons from the book's back cover.

  • "There is no current way to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia—except estrogen."
  • "Seven times as many women die of heart disease as die of breast cancer annually. In fact, heart disease, not cancer, is the leading cause of death among breast cancer survivors, and HRT can decrease that risk by 30 to 50 percent."
  • "The same number of women die annually following osteoporotic hip fracture as die of breast cancer, and HRT can cut this risk in half."
  • "There is no evidence to support the current medical advice to take HRT at the lowest dose for the shortest period of time."
  • "HRT is the most effective treatment for all menopausal symptoms, not only the familiar hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia—which can last seven years or longer—but also heart palpitations, joint and muscle aches, headaches, bladder problems, sexual discomforts, and depression, which many women do not realize are often signs of menopause as well."
  • "Women taking HRT live, on average, several years longer than those not taking it.

Every single action we take in life has potential risks to our health. Personally, I am learning more about the importance of making choices that positively impact the quality of my life. Every one of us has the freedom to make our own choices. 

Please read the book yourself. Do your own research. Discuss it with your providers. Be your own advocate. 

Find out more about the book on their website at Estrogen Matters.

Shared with love by Jan James, Hope After Breast Cancer

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