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Understanding the Hazards of Synthetic Hormones, and the Ways to Balance Hormone Levels Naturally, is the Key to Aging Well

Synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has hit the fan. No amount of spin doctoring will be able to minimize the catastrophic effect the truth is having on victims (women), perpetrators (doctors) and manufacturers (drug companies). The post-mortem on synthetic HRT shows that the resulting increase in breast cancer for HRT users over the past three decades is not another thing we can blame on mother and her bad genes.

Of course, all that cancer was really great for business. The entire cancer industry — from pharmaceutical companies and mammography providers to wig manufacturers and coffin manufacturers — had a few really great decades. In 2001, drug companies sold $177 billion (US) worth of drugs, and HRT is the most reliable cash-cow in that stable. North American women are spending an average of $100,000 (US) daily on just Premarin, netting Wyeth a profit of $37 (US) million annually. Since HRT’s cancer-promoting effect was reported last summer, Wyeth stocks have fallen by 22%.

Doctors’ faces are covered with egg, because they believed what the drug representatives told them and prescribed these hormones in a state of automatic pilot. Undoubtedly, most of them were just as duped as their patients. The Jan. 4, 2002 issue of The Lancet, reported that pharmaceutical advertisements written in doctor-speak, and published in medical journals, are largely blatant lies supported by dubious data — or none at all.

Harvard medical school’s JoAnn Manson blamed the rise of HRT on patients and doctors both having swallowed the propaganda which began in 1966, with Dr. Robert Wilson’s book Feminine Forever. Financed in its entirety by the pharmaceutical company Wyeth-Ayerst (the manufacturers of Premarin), this book promised: “Breasts and genital organs will not shrivel. Such women [on HRT] will be much more pleasant to live with and will not become dull and unattractive.” Professor Manson added that rather than conducting proper trials, “it was just assumed that there would be an overall favorable benefit-to-risk ratio.” (Focus, Nov. 8, 2002)

To make matters worse, in addition to learning that HRT promotes cancer and interferes with the accuracy of mammograms so as to prevent early detection (The Lancet, Jan. 22, 2000), in 1997 the British Medical Journal published results showing that HRT also promotes rather than prevents heart disease. This was confirmed by an article in The Lancet in Dec. 21, 2002. Finally, the British Medical Journal (Sept. 7, 2002) informed us that the increase in thromboembolism, the potentially fatal blood clots that can cause strokes, caused by the Pill (same stuff as HRT, just in a different combination), has now reached a level of proof acceptable to the highest courts in Europe and the U.S. It looks like it’s pay-back time.

The melt-down began when the Journal of the American Medical Association announced on July 17, 2002 that estrogen/progesterone combined synthetic HRT doesn’t protect you from anything much — and increases your risk of getting breast cancer by 60 to 80%, depending on various circumstances. It also seems to be a trigger for ovarian cancer. The giant study, known as the Women’s Health Initiative, was halted as the evidence became undeniable. The chief reason the study finally came out at all is because the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest government-funded medical research institution, is answerable to the public rather than to pharmaceutical companies which pay for (and control) most medical research in the U.S. and Canada.

The HRT disaster has been in the making for a long time and is only the first of many such revelations we are about to witness. Once the body count reaches a critical threshold, the spin ceases to work. What happened to HRT is happening to cholesterol-lowering drugs, vaccines, surgical procedures, cancer treatments, and many other less common drugs — all of which are based on “tobacco science” or have never been properly investigated at all. It all amounts to Nature hitting back: symptom control rubs her the wrong way.


If cancer wasn’t a primarily hormone-mediated disease, the HRT mess would never have happened. Scientists have known since the 1960s that cancer and hormones have a fatal attraction for one another. Since then, it has also become clear that the body handles pesticides and plastics in the same way as hormones, because their chemical structure is similar to the point that most are known as xenoestrogens (foreign or phony estrogens). As the world’s environmental load of these substances has increased over the past 50 years and medicine added HRT and the Pill, humans became overwhelmed with estrogenic substances. The rate of cancer increased accordingly: now every third person is expected to die of the disease.

Thus, the majority of cancer-causing substances are well-known: the list is long, but the biggest offenders are pesticides, nitrates in fertilizers and cured meats, dyes, certain food additives, Styrofoam cups, dioxin, asbestos, tobacco, and antibiotics. (Radiation is in a class by itself.) Even the cancers caused by certain viruses, parasites and bacteria (e.g. H. pylori) require an organism — whose immunity is impaired by the environmental toxins — in order to succumb.

The myth of cancer’s hereditary nature was laid to rest by the international landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on July 13, 2000. The study investigated the life-time incidence of cancer in 90,000 pairs of identical twins, whose DNA is identical. If one twin was afflicted with cancer, the hereditary theory meant there should be a high probability that the other twin would be affected: but results showed that there was no relationship at all. The individual’s exposure to carcinogens was the only determining factor. The chief carcinogens identified were exposure to heavy metals, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs such as hormones and antibiotics. Ontario and Texas are North America’s most polluted environments, and have the highest overall rates of cancer.

While the cancer-causing hormonal assault on women is getting all the attention, the fact is that an overload of hormones from food and environmental sources is equally devastating for men and children. Prostate cancer is becoming the chief killer of men, and cancer in general is the chief cause of death in children.


In October 1962, the FDA classified drugs into “prescription” and “over-the-counter.” The FDA also put drug companies in charge of research and drug developments. At that time, drug research was in its infancy, and nobody dreamed of the rampant corruption that characterizes this sector now. Four decades later we have the Sickness Industry. If you want to know just how big and bad it is, read Jeffrey Robinson’s incomparable Prescription Games; a writer of thrillers wouldn’t dare invent the real-life plots found there.

One lucrative tool of the drug trade is the invention of illnesses. Menopause-as-disease was invented in the 1960s. And on April 13, 2002, the British Medical Journal reported the text of a confidential internal memo obtained through a whistleblower at Glaxo-Smith-Kline. This drug company was working on a three-year program (2000 to 2003) to “create a new perception of irritable bowel syndrome as a concrete disease [which] must be established in the minds of doctors as a significant and discrete disease. Patients also need to be convinced that [it] is a … medical disorder.” University of British Columbia medical researcher Barbara Mintzes commented: “Not content with providing a pill for every ill, the drug companies now push an ill for every pill.”

In the year 2000 alone, the world’s largest drug companies spent $15.7 billion (US) on just promotion, handed out $7 billion (US) worth of promotional gifts, and sponsored 314,022 medical conferences for which doctors are paid to attend. Universities cannot compete financially with this explosion of scientific garbage. The profits are astronomical: the production cost of 100 pills of Prozac is 11 cents, but the mark-up is 224,973%.

Everybody seems to be at least partially for sale: the American Medical Association generates $20 million (US) annually by selling personal and professional information on its member doctors to pharmaceutical companies. And if money alone is not enough incentive, coercion is one of the dirty tricks as well: the councils of licensing bodies that control doctors’ licenses are almost entirely made up of people associated with drug and insurance companies. Indeed, the Journal of the American Medical Association admitted in their February 2, 2002 issue that 87% of their medical experts — who formulate the practice guidelines to which doctors must adhere — are actually financially dependent upon pharmaceutical companies. Now you see why your doctor unquestioningly prescribed you all those hormones?


As we age, we are offered not only synthetic hormones for our protection, but anti-depressants, cholesterol-lowering drugs, mammograms, Viagra, plastic surgery, protection against osteoporosis, and every kind of food that is supposedly specially tailored to our needs. Yet these drugs and medical procedures only serve to mask the symptoms of underlying toxicities and deficiencies, symptoms which the body is using to cry for help. Hormone deficiency is often caused by environmental toxicants, or the removal of ovaries diseased by a lifetime of pesticide exposure (a major cause of endometriosis). Depression can be the first sign of nutritional deficiencies. Similarly, lack of sexual desire can be entirely psychological, and elevated cholesterol is likely the first sign of too great a toxic load of heavy metals from mercury (“silver”) tooth fillings.

Menopause in women and andropause in men signals a change in life like puberty once did. But associating aging with weight gain, memory-loss, brittle bones, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration and arthritis is neither logical nor useful. Association is not the same as cause. Each of these conditions needs its own focused attention and a search for its cause. We all age, we all die, but our diseases have a cause that is discoverable. The Medical Post reported in Sept. 29, 1998 that 51% of women were much happier after menopause than before. Being young is very stressful. A rapidly growing body of medical research shows that diseases are systemic responses to diet and environment, not inevitable events.

It is true that aging is associated for both sexes with diminishing muscle strength; that sex hormones are bound up increasingly in fat cells rather than moving freely about the body; that growth hormone decreases; and that women become unable to conceive — rather cause for celebration because they can begin to hear themselves think. The second half of life for men and women is a “now or never!” time when priorities change. (I know I would not want to be 25 again for all the tea in China.)

It is equally true that all the sins the environment has committed against us since we were born are coming home to roost. The epidemic of Alzheimer’s we see today is the result of an unconscionable lack of policy with regard to safe drinking water and safe dentistry. Parkinson’s is not an age-related disease, but a pesticide-induced disaster. Arthritis is most often the result of nutritional deficiencies combined with environmental toxins. Sex drive does not disappear with aging either, but too much beer, coffee and refined, sugary foods conspire to be the ultimate downers.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported on June 19, 2002, that a Harvard University study of the North American diet revealed that all conventionally grown food is seriously depleted of its most essential nutrients. For example, potatoes used to be a primary source of potassium, but conventionally grown potatoes now have zero potassium. And FDA data cited in this study tells us that conventionally grown foods have 40% less magnesium than our minimum daily requirement.


When the medical industry latched onto hormones, they understood how vitally important they are. Indeed, aging well requires understanding hormones. What an endocrinologist calls a hormone, a neuroscientist calls a neurotransmitter or peptide. Hormones are messenger molecules; they are the organism’s communication system. Nothing works — absolutely nothing — without them. One hormone can accomplish many completely different tasks. Testosterone builds and protects muscle activity in both sexes, and in both makes a sex drive possible. Neither sex can have a functioning memory without it. One estrogen promotes cancer (estrone), another is vital for the functioning of the brain (estradiol), a third protects against cancers and other illnesses (estriol). In men, progesterone is required to manufacture sperm and protect against prostate cancer. In women it mediates emotional wellbeing on many levels, is essential for pregnancy, and vital to all central nervous system functions. DHEA is the famous anti-stress hormone which regulates blood pressure, ensures the elasticity of arteries, regulates metabolism and protects the heart.

Sadly, hormones are exquisitely sensitive to environmental toxins. As for hormone replacement therapy, the natural hormones have never hurt anybody because the body knows how to metabolize those and use only what it needs.

Aging is not a Viagra, Prozac or HRT deficiency. Acquiring a profession, raising children, and making a marriage work is hard work, and so is making old age a success — nothing new in that. To age well, we need to rid ourselves of the toxins accumulated in our bodies and our minds over a lifetime — from pesticides to anger. We need to eat well (organic and only organic, all else is laced with poison). The June 19, 2002 edition of JAMA provided a scientific overview of disease prevention which boiled down to one essential item: vitamins. Its researchers equated the modern chronic lack of vitamins with the cause of all chronic disease. For clinical application of this finding, they focused on nutrition, with optimal amounts of vitamins supplemented, as the proper medical approach to aging. The sources below provide empowering information. The golden years need not be brass.


• T. Colborn et al, Our Stolen Future, Penguin-Plume, 1997
• J.S. Cohen, Overdose: The Case Against the Drug Companies, Tarcher-Putnam, 2001
• D.L. Berkson, Hormone Deception, Contemporary Books, 2000
• C. Dean, MD, The Miracle of Magnesium, Ballantine Books, 2003
• A. Hill, MD, The Testosterone Solution, Prima, 1997
• K. Jensen, MD, & L. Vanderhaeghe, No More HRT, Health Venture, 2002
• J. Krop, MD, Healing The Planet One Patient At A Time, Kos Inc., 2002
• J.R. Lee, MD, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer, Warner Books, 2003
• M. Nestle, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, University of California Press, 2001
• U. Reiss, MD, Natural Hormone Balance for Women, Pocket Books, 2001
• J. Robinson, Prescription Games, McClelland & Steward, 2001
• S. Rogers, MD, Detoxify or Die, Sand Key Co., 2002
• Z. Rona, MD, Boosting Male Libido Naturally, Alive Books, 2002
• R. Sahelian, MD, DHEA: A Practical Guide, Avery, 1996
• R. Sahelian, MD, Saw Palmetto: Nature’s Prostate Healer, Kensington, 1998
• M. Walker, Elements of Danger: Protecting Yourself Against the Hazards of Modern Dentistry, Hampton Roads, 2000
• M.R. Werbach, MD, Textbook of Nutritional Medicine, Third Line Press, 1999


Helke Ferrie is a medical science writer with a master's degree in physical anthropology. Her specialty lies in investigative research into ethical issues in medicine and the politics of health. She started her investigative journalism career in the mid-1990s, looking at issues of medicine and environment. She has been a regular contributor to Vitality Magazine ever since. Helke has also authored several books on various subjects including: "Ending Denial: The Lyme Disease Epidemic", "What Part of No! Don't They Understand: Rescuing Food and Medicine from Government Abuse", and "The Earth's Gift to Medicine". Read her article: When governments abandon the public interest — look out for your own health Find her book -What Part of No! Don't They Understand Helke has also been a regular contributor for the Vitality Magazine. Links to few of her articles: The Tyranny of Government Protection Success Story - How I Recovered from Lyme Disease IN THE NEWS: Fluoride Dangers; Roundup Lawsuits; Lyme Disease Epidemic Helke Ferrie now lives a retired life and can be reached at helkeferrie@gmail.com

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