Supplements safe for hormone-positive?


Question from Sherry: Are herbal supplements safe for survivors of hormone-sensitive breast cancer? Some products claim to "balance hormones" or replace and/or increase hormone levels to manage menopause symptoms. Can you identify or direct us to a source that can identify which supplements are actually protective/effective/safe and which are dangerous?
Answers - Charles Loprinzi Supplements are a complex subject. A big part of the complexity is that herbal supplements are not regulated. Thus, it is not very clear what is contained in different supplements. Some supplements, over time, have actually been shown to have estrogen in them. There are plant supplements, such as soy, which contain phytoestrogen, which is just a term that means plant estrogen. There is controversy as to whether or not this is beneficial versus detrimental versus neutral in terms of breast cancer risk. My own take on this issue of soy intake in a person with a prior history of breast cancer is that it's reasonable for them to ingest soy in their diet (if they like soy products), but I do not recommend soy supplements.
Mindy Goldman, M.D. One resource that may be helpful is NCCAM, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. It's a division of NIH and has a fair amount of information on some of the popular herbs as well as research that's been done. Again, most of these are not studied specifically in breast cancer patients, so we don't truly know about safety and efficacy in many of these herbs.

On Wednesday, August 20, 2008, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Managing Menopausal Symptoms. Charles Loprinzi, M.D. and Mindy Goldman, M.D. answered your questions about how you can manage menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and more.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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