Estrogen is a female hormone that acts as a chemical messenger and is in charge of normal sexual development and functioning of female reproductive organs. Estrogen together with progesterone (another female hormone) regulates a woman's menstrual cycle.
Excess Estrogen Exposure and Breast Cancer
There are many connections between estrogen and breast cancer. The hormone, for instance, stimulates breast cell division, it plays significant role during the critical periods of breast growth and development and may also have influence on other hormones that stimulate breast cells division. Furthermore, estrogen is proven to support the growth of estrogen-responsive tumors.
Certain women with a high lifetime exposure to estrogen are at increased risk for breast cancer. This is the reason why the connection between environmental factors and lifestyle on one side and breast cancer on the other needs to be studied in detail.
Lifestyle Factors and Levels of Estrogen
Firstly, the food the woman consumes may affect the level of estrogen in her body. Diet rich in fat and low in fiber is known to increase the level of estrogen. By increasing the level of estrogen such food may contribute to the onset of breast cancer.
On the other hand, phytoestrogens, estrogens found in plants (e.g. soybeans, tofu, whole grains etc.) are considered to decrease breast cancer risk. This explains why vegans and women whose diet is based on soy products do not develop breast cancer often.
Obesity is in general considered an underlying cause of many different medical conditions. Studies have shown that obese women have higher chance to develop breast cancer than women of average weight. Namely, weight gain, particularly before and during menopause, increases the amount of estrogen in a woman's body, therefore may contribute to the onset of breast cancer.
Some studies have shown that women who exercise regularly have lower levels of estrogen in their bodies. Regular physical activity is also a good way to prevent obesity. This is the reason why by exercising women may prevent increase in estrogen in their bodies and also prevent weight gain, another contributor to breast cancer.
Even though there is no confirmation that alcohol drinking may increase the level of estrogen in one's body, this connection could one day be revealed. In the meantime, women should abstain from alcohol because drinking has been associated with increased risk for breast cancer.
- Birth Control Pills
There is an ongoing debate regarding birth control pills and the occurrence of breast cancer. It may be that the amount of estrogen in the birth control pill, the length of use and the time of a woman's life when she uses this way of protection may determine whether she will or will not develop breast cancer. Similarly scientists are investigating the effects of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy on the onset of breast cancer. There is plenty of research to be performed until we get fully informed about the connection of the two.