Estrogen is probably one of the most misunderstood of the sex
hormones. In fact is important to review the whole concept of
steroids. Is estrogen a steroid? Yes. If you have not read the
section on "Steroids", please go and read that now.
Estrogen is believed to have a protective effect against heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, urinary tract atrophy, and the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes mood changes and decreased libido.
It has been well documented that heart disease rises dramatically in women after the menopause and is the leading cause of death in older women. In fact there are almost twice as many deaths from heart disease in older women as there are from all cancer deaths combined! For this reason I think estrogen is part of an antiaging strategy. There are three naturally occurring forms of estrogen, - estrone, estriol, and estradiol. Of these three, estradiol is the most physiologically and biologically active.
The big question women always ask is -will estrogens cause breast cancer? Unfortunately, the role of HRT as a cause of cancer is still unclear. Most of the studies showing any relationship had been done with Premarin which as we know is not a bio identical hormone. The second observation is, if there was a clear risk of breast cancer associated with HRT, there would be no controversy in the medical literature on this issue. However we have studies showing a slightly increased risk, a slightly decreased risk, and no risk change in all.
There are many physicians active in the field of HRT who feel the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks and the majority of postmenopausal women. My own opinion is that the final word is that of the woman considering HRT. There is no right or wrong answer. I like to use the automobile analogy. Many people die on our roads and highways every day in automobile accidents. One might ask why do we not ban automobiles? The logical answer is that while each of us is aware of the possibility of death every time we get into our cars, we feel this risk is very small and the benefit of driving far outweighs that risk. Never driving a car is no guarantee you won't be killed by a car. Likewise not taking estrogens is no guarantee you won't get breast cancer. In the end it's an individual choice but again most of the experts in the field believe the benefits outweigh the risks.