Does having a period raise a woman's chances of all sorts of disease and cancer?
In chemistry, we learn that the addition of one molecule can make a totally different substance. In organic chemistry, taking the same molecules and rearranging them can make a totally different substance.
So often in the media's reporting of information, one small fact gets omitted and the story becomes totally changed.
This is certainly the case in an article entitled "Can your period cause cancer?" in "Glamour Magazine" as reported by American Life League. I read the following in A.L.L.'s Communique:
This is likely referring to the newest theory about menopausal difficulties which is really a pro-life theory in its original form. The theory goes as follows:
I first read this in "Could it be ... Perimenopause" by Dr Steven Goldstein. But even the fact that Dr Goldstein was involved in some of the HRT research using synthetic estrogen and progestin and the fact that he was pro choice, did not cause him to advocate taking the birth control pill for the sole purpose of protecting against ovarian cancer (the pill causes a HIGHER risk of endodemetrial and other cancers). This is, of course, because the pill has many other dangers including raising the risk of breast cancer, heart attack and stroke.
I am not sure where Brody got her information about the higher risk of other diseases by having a cycle but Dr Lee (WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY NOT TELL YOU ABOUT MENOPAUSE) makes a rather good case for the point that taking the pill to suppress ovulation is not the answer as this causes greater problems. The cells which build up bone have progesterone receptors and women who do not ovulate may have a good healthy case of osteoporosis going by the age of 35, since only in ovulation or pregnancy is progesterone released. And merely stopping ovulation without a pregnancy could be partially responsible for the hormonal unbalance many women in our country seem to experience after the age of 35. Goldstein reports that the women on the pill don't have periods but monthly dysfunctional uterine bleeds probably from estrogen dominance. As Dr Lee points out, the synthetic progestin in the birth control pill and HRT is not progesterone i.e. synthetic progestin affects the body differently from the way in which natural progesterone affects the body.
Both Drs Lee and Goldstein comment that the hormonal imbalance and estrogen dominance experienced by women in our country is often the cause of women having hysterectomies.
Lee adds that, so far, research has not observed women receiving the birth control pill, to be renewing bone mass like they do when progesterone is being manufactured through ovulation, and during a pregnancy, since the progesterone and estrogen levels are very high, women tend to increase bone mass and experience other signs of strong health.
By the way, Dr Lee does not agree with the theory previously stated that too many cycles cause problems. His point: the body can handle variations in the number of cycles and also, that there is no hard evidence to the truth of this theory. However, fact remains when women had more kids, they have far less cycles. What there is no proof of is that stopping cycles with strong birth control pills is healthier - it isn't because of the numerous risks involved.
Whether the theory bears out or not, it's interesting that the original theory emphasizes how healthy it is to have many children as we were probably meant to do that - this is a pro life bottom line. However, the magazine distorts this into an ad for the birth control pill - a false conclusion for sure, but very misleading.
That being said, we must realize that the magazine's bottom line is neither women's health or life issues but rather pleasing the large pharmaceutical companies who often have four page color ads in such publications. And I'm sure in this case, Liz Brody did a good job of adhering to the magazine's bottom line!
Goldstein, Steven, MD: Could it be...Perimenopause? (NY, 1996)
Lee, John R, MD: What your Doctor may not tell you About Menopause (NY, 1996)
Stevens et al: Anatomy and Physiology (Mosby - Missouri, 1989)