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September 8, 2014

Breast cancer update (evolutionary medicine info)

(courtesy of Google images ~ I'm so done with Bing......)

First I'll bore you with this:

"Although comparative rates are difficult to obtain, one study estimates that the rate of breast cancer for industrialized nations, where birth control is practiced and childbearing is limited and deferred, is as high as 100 times the rate for women who are not using contraception and are spending the bulk of their reproductive lives pregnant or nursing in patterns that result in lactational amenorrhea (Eaton et al. 1994). For these women, the hormonal milieu to which they are most commonly exposed is high progesterone rather than high estrogen. Eaton and his colleagues suggest that hormonal interventions (not unlike those with oral contraceptives) that delay menarche or reduce the number of menstrual cycles may provide protection against the reproductive cancers described above (Eaton et al. 2002). "  *Wenda Trevathan, Evolutionary Medicine, New Mexico State University, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, 2007

Ok ~ so this stuff interested me as a breast cancer "survivor" (meaning, I haven't gotten past my 5 year mark yet, although I fully expect to).  There is more information than this, but it's really long, and probably not interesting to many.  The bottom line: modern women in developed countries (like ours) have too many periods.  You know, cycles.  We are exposed to over 400 highs and lows of estrogen/progesterone.  Ugh.  Now, I never took birth control pills, because I couldn't remember to take them regularly, so I used a more antiquated birth control solution ~ the lovely diaphram.  So much fun, let me tell you.  My gynecologist did prescribe "hormone replacement therapy" for me, which I took for a little over a year...then I had my cancer diagnosis, and wondered if that had anything to do with it.  Probably not.  I really didn't take it very long.  Until truly effective means of birth control were available, what we did was nurse a child....for a long time.  According to the study, foraging populations would have a total of approx. 5.9 children ( ~ don't you just love the decimal there?) and would lactate for a total of 17 years. This means that each child would be nursed for about 2.8 years.  Can you imagine the outcry of the general populace if a child were breast fed for that long?  Anyway, doing that is out of the question.  So, now our contraceptive people are working on developing a pill that would reduce the number of cycles to 4 in one year rather than 11 to 12, which might be a good idea.  This class (Evolutionary Medicine in case you weren't aware, or paying attention ~ and why would you, anyway???) is really fascinating.  In a keynote address by Dr. Randolph Nesse, he mentioned that the number of men taking testosterone therapy is increasing, and wonders what the ramifications of that would be.  

You would think we would have learned the lesson from the huge number of women who did take hormone replacement therapy for a long time ~ and ended up with all kinds of problems like: cancer, stroke, heart attack, gall bladder disease, blood clots...and yet when you put in your search engine "the negative consequences of hormone replacement therapy" you get articles that give you the pro's and con's ~ and they really seem to be downplaying the con's in my opinion......well, I suppose it is a competely individual decision to go on it or not.  The point of evolutionary medicine is that there is a delicate set of checks and balances that you may or may not want to fuck around with.  

Love, 365


  1. And this is only one of the reasons I have chosen to just deal with the hot flashes and other unpleasantness of menopause. No hormones for me, thanks.


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