Elmer M. Cranton, M.D.
Fear-based articles increasingly appear in the major news
media correlating hormones with cancer. Careful review of
the research data, however, shows that quoted studies only
show that people with normal hormone levels have more cancer
than people who are deficient.
You cannot live without hormones. You cannot get cancer if
you are not alive. If you are only half-alive because of
hormone deficiency, you get less cancer. Does that mean that
hormones cause cancer?
This line of reasoning applies to testosterone, estrogen,
growth hormone, DHEA, and other hormones. It's nothing new.
A long-accepted therapy for prostate cancer is castration
(or the chemical equivalent with Lupron).
An effective treatment for breast cancer is chemical
blockage of estrogen with Tamoxifen
(female chemical castration). Menopause is the equivalent of
castration for a woman—the ovaries cease to function.
There is a major difference between saying that hormone
deficiency slows cancer growth and jumping to the conclusion
that normal hormone levels cause cancer. Normal hormone
levels are essential for health and well being. All cells in
the body require hormones for support, not just cancer
Hormones do not cause cancer at normal levels,
Hormone deficiency can retard cancer, along with everything
Hormone deficiency retards the growth and replacement of all
cells, not just cancer cells. Cancer is as dependent on
hormones as healthy organs. If you choose to live in a
deficiency state, you may also reduce the probability for
cancer—but you pay the price of a significantly lower
quality of life. That is a matter of personal choice.
Deficiencies of many hormones occur with advancing age. Old
age is, to some extent, a deficiency disease. Consider also,
the hormone deficiency weakens the immune system, a major
defense against cancer.
Hormone production declines with age. If sex hormones are
low, the sex organs shrivel up, they atrophy; they have
fewer cells and those cells are starved for the hormones
needed for cell replacement, repair, healing, function, and
vigor. That condition is a deficiency disease, an
age-related decline in function. That same deficiency can
reduce the likelihood of cancer. In fact, it would be
surprising if it did not. Cancer cannot occur without
hormones. Neither can life or health.
If growth hormone is deficient, organs atrophy. Function
declines. Skin becomes thinner. Muscles waste away. Healing
slows. Fat increases. Memory fails. Organs are starved for a
vital substance needed for metabolism and normal cell
replacement throughout life. Hence, the decay of old age.
Growth hormone should be renamed "cell replacement and
repair hormone" in adult life. Cancer is a process of
uncontrolled cell replacement and is highly dependent on
growth hormone, as reflected by blood levels of IGF-1.
A study of 20,000 children who received growth hormone for
many years to treat dwarfism showed no increase in cancer.
It is expected, however, that deficiency with age retards
cancer compared with healthier people.
The most effective treatment for advanced prostate cancer is
castration—or the chemical equivalent with testosterone
blockers. The prostate is highly dependent on testosterone.
Even when prostate cancer is far advanced and has spread to
bones, castration will often bring a near total remission
lasting several years. Testosterone deficiency definitely
retards prostate cancer. A man might therefore elect to live
with testosterone deficiency to reduce his chances for
prostate cancer. That does not mean that testosterone at
normal levels causes cancer.
Testosterone deficiency is not acceptable to most men, if
they have a choice. The same could be said about growth
A slow, progressive equivalent of "castration" occurs with
aging as sex hormones decline. If a man is willing to accept
that age-associated loss of function, not just as it effects
the prostate and sex organs, but loss of testosterone and
growth hormone support of the brain, heart and throughout
the body; and if he is willing to accept the functional
decline with age that occurs without hormone replacement, he
may have a reduced risk for prostate cancer and other forms
If a woman is willing to accept the equivalent of castration
at menopause, when her ovaries fail, she may experience a
lower risk of breast cancer than she would have if her
ovaries continued to function. However, without hormone
replacement after menopause, the incidence of heart disease,
Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis and death from all causes
will be much greater. Atrophy will occur in the breasts and
sex organs. That is one choice.
To completely avoid breast cancer, it is possible to have
bilateral breast removal as a preventive measure. Some women
actually do that. That too is a choice. To live with
relative estrogen/progesterone deficiency creates a state
half way between surgical removal and hormone replacement.
The fact is, however, that hormone replacement with estrogen
has been proven to reduce the death rate from all causes by
up to 40%, despite a possible increase in breast cancer. If
a woman dies of a heart attack, stroke or colon cancer, she
can't get breast cancer, that's for sure. If the death rate
from all causes decreases, then a woman will live longer
receiving hormone replacement. Cancer might then be the
final cause of death later in life.
Estrogen replacement reduces cardiovascular death by 60%.
Cardiovascular disease normally causes 50% of all deaths.
With estrogen replacement after menopause, death rate from
all causes is reduced by 40%. Death rate from cancer will
therefore be greater as a percentage, of all deaths, but at
an older age. Is that important if death rate from all
causes, including cancer is reduced by 40%?
Studies correlating growth hormone levels (IGF-1) with
cancer compare people with normal levels of growth hormone
to people of the same age who are deficient. The highest 20%
are compared to the lowest 20%. Because hormones are
necessary for healthy cell replacement, it is predictable
that hormone deficiency will slow all cell growth,
The fact that age-related hormone deficiencies deprive
cancer cells as well as healthy cells of vital support does
not mean that hormone replacement causes cancer. It means
that hormone deficiencies reduce cancer along with
everything else, including quality of life and life
Hormone replacement should restore levels only to that of a
healthy adult between the ages of 30 to 40. That is quite
enough to maintain better health and function into old age,
without increasing the risk of cancer. Healthy organs are
larger, and have more cells. Cells replace themselves as
needed when they wear out if adequate levels of hormones are
Consider all the facts in proper perspective before allowing
cancer phobia to affect your judgment.
Make an informed decision for yourself, based on the big
picture, not on a few isolated statistics. If you choose to
live with hormone deficiencies as you age, you might suffer
a substantial reduction in the quality of your life.
Copyright © 1998 Elmer M. Cranton,