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Archive for the ‘Hormonal’ Category

Calciferol, One-Alpha (Alfa Calcidol)

Friday, November 6th, 2009

In the 1960s, a small group of physicians asserted that a drug called estrogen, taken in pill form to supplement the natural female hormone estrogen, could keep women young -retaining smooth, un-wrinkled skin, strong bones, and youthful sexual capacity. Moreover, they said, the estrogen supplement eliminated or limited such menopausal symptoms as hot flashes, increased facial and body hair, mood swings, insomnia, and night sweats.
Then came the bad news: Studies suggested that estrogen caused cancer and also would stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent cancers of the breast, ovaries, and uterine lining in menopausal women. After that, doctors quickly dropped estrogen for treatment of menopause. But the doctors also assured women under age 35 that estrogen supplementation was safe for them and that they ran a low risk of breast cancer. So, young women kept using birth control pills with estrogen. Later studies revealed that the birth control pills even protected young women against some malignancies.
Now supplemental estrogen again is being hailed for keeping women not only young but also alive and healthier longer. Studies show that menopausal women taking estrogen gain two or three extra years of life. Estrogen also has been shown to lower cholesterol buildup and to delay heart disease, which kills 923,000 Americans yearly and affects about half of those over age 55.
Dr. William Castelli, who heads the Framingham, Massachusetts, study of heart attack risks, points out that 90 percent of heart attack victims do not die but struggle on, disabled, for years. “If I can delay or eliminate that heart attack or stroke,” Dr. Castelli says, “I can save many older people years of pain and disability. Prescribing a supplement of the female hormone estrogen is proving to be one way to do that for many women.”
Numerous studies now show that, after menopause, older women face at least 15 times the risk of dying of heart disease than of estrogen-dependent cancers. These studies also show that estrogen supplementation reduces the risk of heart disease in women of normal health with no family history of heart disease.
Estrogen supplementation also has been shown to help protect against osteoporosis, the thinning of bones -a condition that affects about half of all menopausal women. Loss of bone matter speeds up rapidly in the first few years of menopause.
A woman’s ovaries normally produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone from the onset of menstruation in adolescence through menopause, when menstruation stops, generally between the ages of 45 and 55. In estrogen replacement therapy (ERT), only estrogen is replaced. In hormone replacement therapy (HRT), both estrogen and progesterone are replaced. Studies show that combining the hormones seems to provide better results.
Doctors caution that some women will be at risk from either therapy, but Dr. C. Wayne Bardin, former medical director of the Population Council, a nonprofit research organization, is an expert on estrogen and emphatic in his praise: “It looks like the overall benefits of estrogen treatment far exceed the risk,” he says. “Not only does it benefit the heart, it can slow down the escape of calcium from bones, preventing fractures of the hip and spine. Nursing homes are filled with osteoporotic women, confined to bed and unable to help themselves.”
Denver resident Barbara Silverman, 61, began taking estrogen at age 54. “I’m scared to death of osteoporosis,” she explains. “My mother, who died last year at the age of 90, suffered from osteoporosis. In her early 60s, her back started to curve. She had to use a walker for 15 years. My mother had broken her hip three times and had two hip replacements. She had no real life for 30 years – the last third of her life.”
Dr. Brian E. Henderson is president of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. In 1981, with his colleagues, he studied 8,881 menopausal women from Leisure World, a retirement community. Each woman filled out a health questionnaire. Following up on the participants in 1989, he made an astonishing finding. The death rate for those who took estrogen was 20 percent lower than for those who never took it. Those taking estrogen for more than 15 years had a mortality rate that was 40 percent lower than others in the same age group. Dr. Henderson also found that women who took estrogen had fewer deaths from heart disease.
A number of studies conclude that estrogen treatment of older women raises their risk of breast cancer and uterine (endometrial) cancer, but estimates vary. Dr. Karen K. Steinberg headed a team at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta that researched 16 investigations of estrogen and breast cancer in older women. These investigations dated to the early 1970s.
“After 15 years of estrogen use,” Dr. Steinberg says, “we found about 1,500 j extra breast cancer deaths a year among 3 million women, ages 45 to 64, who had been exposed to estrogens for 15 years. From a research vantage point, the protective effect on heart disease may outweigh the breast cancer risk. But not, certainly, from the viewpoint of the women who get breast cancer. Most women are frustrated that we can’t give them a bottom line on breast cancer, because we don’t have the data.”