Study Shows Hormone Replacement Therapy May Cut Colorectal Cancer Risk, but at What Risk?

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Filed Under: Women's Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

According to a study published in the latest edition of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, long-term use of hormone replacement therapy may cut the risk of colorectal cancer. The greatest reduction in risk was seen in women who used a combination of estrogen plus progestin for two to five years. Current users had the greatest risk reduction, but past users who had stopped at least five years ago also benefited.

So, based on this study, would I recommend using conventional hormone replacement therapy now that it has been found to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer? My answer is unequivocally no! It has been well established that conventional hormone replacement therapy has been associated with a significant increase in the risk of invasive breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, strokes, heart attacks, blood clots, and Alzheimer's disease. So, while HRT is helpful in reducing menopause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats--and now colorectal cancer--it is at the expense of your breast, heart, and brain health!

There are much safer and more effective ways to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, even if you are at high risk due to family history:

  1. Eat a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, wild-caught fish, nuts, whole grains, free-range poultry, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil and almond butter; avoid red meat, dairy products, fried and processed foods, and refined sugar and flour. 
  2. Add 4 to 6 Tbsp. ground flaxseed to your diet. It's a great source of fiber, as well as mucilage and lubricants, which provide bulk and soften your stool, helping to promote its elimination through the intestines. 
  3. Don't smoke. Smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely than nonsmokers to die of colorectal cancer.
  4. Exercise. Inactive people have a higher risk of developing not only colorectal cancer, but many other types of cancer, including breast cancer. 
  5. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. 
  6. Take these supplements: 

 

  • Selenium is an antioxidant that has been found to inhibit cancer in animal studies. Additional research indicates that selenium shows promise in colorectal cancer prevention in humans. I recommend 50-200 mcg a day.
  • Calcium helps reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps. I recommend at least 700 mg a day, along with 800 IU of vitamin D.
  • Resveratrol, a naturally-occurring compound found in grapes, may help protect against the growth and proliferation of colon cancer cells. In fact, a study published in Cancer Letters found that resveratrol reduced the growth rate of colon cancer cells by 70 percent! I recommend 200 mg, standardized to at least 8 percent total resveratrol, mixed with flavonoids for better bioavailability.
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