Cancer and Progesterone

Progesterone is linked to higher rates of breast cancer.

Nowadays, it can feel like everything causes cancer, but as a menopausal woman you may be asking yourself if progesterone has links to cancer. It can be a scary feeling not knowing if something that your body creates naturally can have such adverse side effects, such as cancer. Before you start to stress you first need to understand what progesterone is and how it works with your body. Then you will better be able to understand how it is linked to higher rates of breast cancer, and why.

What Is Natural Progesterone?

Progesterone is secreted in higher amounts two weeks before menstruation and during pregnancy. It is an essential hormone during pregnancy. A female's body produces this hormone to prepare the lining of the uterus to accept the fertilized egg. Then if the egg is not fertilized, the lining is shed and progesterone levels fall again. When doctors are trying to determine whether a woman is fertile or not, they will test her progesterone levels. If conception has occurred, progesterone becomes the major hormone supporting pregnancy, with many important functions. It is responsible for the growth and maintenance of the endometrium. It also suppresses further maturation of eggs by preventing release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).

Progesterone and HRT

Synthetic progesterone and estrogen are used to balance woman's body.

Menopausal women often look to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to beat menopausal symptoms. Most HRT regiments include synthetic estrogen and progesterone. Together these two hormones are supposed to help keep common menopause symptoms at bay. Progesterone is never prescribed to be taken without estrogen; the two are used to balance each other in a woman's body. HRT has been known to treat hormone imbalance successfully, but it's important to consider the risks and potential side effects involved before beginning HRT treatment.

Progesterone and Cancer

Progesterone is a naturally occurring steroid hormone and promotes development of the normal mammary gland. Progesterone previously has been identified as a risk factor for breast cancer. Exposure to progesterone in normal amounts and in normal circumstances causes inflammation, which promotes breast development.

However, exposure to progesterone in menopausal hormone therapy is known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Inflammation is a process where white blood cells move into a tissue. One type of white blood cell which moves to the breast during inflammation is a macrophage. Macrophages normally enter growing glands and help them develop, building blood vessels and reshaping growing tissue.

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