Dr. Sherrill Sellman, N.D. has written two books and has done lectures worldwide about the serious dangers of synthetic hormones, as well as the many myths and abuses regarding women’s hormonal health. In her new book and in this enlightening interview, What Women Must Know To Protect Their Daughters From Breast Cancer, Dr. Sellman sounds the alarm about the deteriorating hormonal health of our daughters and the growing incidences of young women who are now being diagnosed with breast cancer. Shockingly, women in their teens, twenties, and thirties are now being diagnosed.
For the past decade, I have been dedicated to helping women reclaim their hormonal health and wellbeing naturally. As I traveled around the world lecturing to thousands of women, I began meeting young women who were diagnosed with breast cancer. This was shocking at first because young women are not supposed to be getting breast cancer. Breast cancer was always thought to be a disease of older women. In the past two decades or so, we have found younger women with breast cancer…the 40 and 50 year olds. Within the last five years, a disturbing trend has emerged. We are now seeing 20 and 30 year old women being diagnosed with breast cancer.
This is a particularly alarming trend since it is well know that young women tend to have a more aggressive breast cancer and a worst prognosis. A breast cancer diagnosis at any age is a devastating experience, but for young women it is shocking.
As I personally met these young women and listened to their stories, I realized that breast cancer was now threatening our young women. Since it takes many years if not decades for breast cancer to develop, it was obvious to me that the factors fueling this trend began very early in a woman’s life…. perhaps, even in the womb.
When I began researching and writing this book, breast cancer in young women was rarely talked about. However, it has become a more widely recognized problem. Whenever I get the chance to query doctors about this issue, they all tell me how shocked they are now seeing increasing numbers of young women who have breast cancer.
A recent meta-analysis study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings has shown an increased risk of breast cancer in women who took oral contraceptives prior to pregnancy. Interestingly, 45,000 pre-menopausal women are being diagnosed annually with breast cancer. What I sensed many years ago, unfortunately, is becoming a very real problem.
The purpose of my book is to help bring this issue to light, make women aware of the causes, and provide the solutions. With the right information, and the willingness to make the necessary changes, mothers (and fathers) can have a profound impact on the future health of their children.
I must add that while the book focuses on the increased risk of breast cancer for our daughters, our sons are equally at risk for hormone dependent cancers and other serious health issues.
Crusador: What is different about your new book compared to your previous book Hormone Heresy?
Hormone Heresy was written to help women understand the dangers of using synthetic hormones and awaken from the myths that made them believe menopause was a downward spiral, their bodies were failing, and that the only solution was taking dangerous, carcinogenic drugs, called Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Major findings in the past 4 years have proven that everything I wrote about in Hormone Heresy was true, especially about the dangers of synthetic hormones found in HRT and the Pill.
So, you might say that Hormone Heresy sounded the warning to menopausal and perimenopasual women. My new book is sounding the warning to women that the breast cancer debacle is now occurring in a younger population, and there are known risk factors that are driving this trend. So, we not only have 20 and 30 year olds being diagnosed, but we need to also realize that breast cancer takes 10 or more years to develop. There are things going on in our environment, in our diet and in the pharmaceutical choices we make for our children that are all contributing to a problem that has never existed before.
The purpose of my new book is to expand my message about hormonal imbalances to a whole new generation that is now at risk and get help get us all into action to protect our children. Whether you are a grandparent or a parent, we must be made aware of a very real threat to our children’s hormonal health.
It took more than 40 years for the truth about HRT to be known even though it was already recognized as early as 1938 that estrogen causes cancer. How long will it take us to realize that our 21st century world is challenging the hormonal health and wellbeing of our children?
Crusador: What can you tell us about the recent news reports that say breast cancer rates have dropped?
These recent reports corroborate what I and many other people have been saying for many years. HRT is a major factor contributing to breast cancer. A major study called the Women’s Health Initiative was canceled three years early in 2002 because the women in the study who were taking HRT were being diagnosed with breast cancer, strokes and blood clots! As a result of this finding, millions of women stopped taking HRT and even medical doctors refused to prescribe it. What we are now seeing in the significant drop in breast cancer, as much as 15% in younger women, is the sad fact that HRT was a major factor in the breast cancer epidemic. I must add that the US government in 2002 listed estrogen as a known human carcinogen, and progestins (the other ingredient of HRT) were listed as a known human carcinogen years earlier. The WHO also listed estrogens and progestin as known carcinogens.
It is also important to state that the birth control pill is made up of similar carcinogenic hormones, but in higher doses. I am saddened by how many unsuspecting women who were prescribed HRT have died from breast cancer over the years. The birth control pill is also driving the breast cancer epidemic.
Even more is now coming to light about the estrogen-breast cancer connection. In January, a study published in the journal Oncogene, the researchers reported that estrogen induces the expression of an inhibitor that blocks immune cells' ability to kill tumor cells. This is the first study to identify estrogen's role in shielding breast cancer cells from the action of immune cells. As a result of this major finding, scientists are rethinking estrogen’s role not only in hormone-stimulated cancers, but also other cancers such as lymphomas.
There is growing evidence that estrogen dominance; an imbalance of excessive estrogen whether from hormone drugs, hormone-laden foods, hormone disrupting chemicals, or the boy’s inability to properly metabolize estrogen, is implicated in many mechanisms that cause cancer.
Too much estrogen in our bodies and the bodies of our children is a very dangerous and worrying problem.
Crusador: Do you believe that breast cancer is genetic or are there other factors that play a role?
Contrary to popular belief, breast cancer is rarely genetic. Only 5-10 % is attributed to a breast cancer gene. In fact, current thinking believes that those with the mutated gene, who have a greater risk of breast cancer, can alter that genetic expression by making dietary, lifestyle, stress levels, environmental and nutritional changes. Expression of our genes, in fact, can be influenced by these factors and therefore, potentially, never be expressed.
I have a fascinating chapter in the new book explaining how the breast cancer gene was found and the misunderstanding surrounding the breast cancer gene theory. We have more control over genetic expression than we ever believed. Having the mutated “breast cancer gene” does not mean it will ever be expressed. The National Cancer institute has stated that 90-95% of cancers are caused by environmental and dietary toxicity. Environmental factors play a major role in all cancers, as well as gene expression.
Crusador: What’s the difference between natural hormones and synthetic hormones found in birth control pills and HRT and why are the synthetic hormones potentially so dangerous to your health?
Hormones found in HRT and birth control are man made chemicals that do not exist in nature with a long list of serious side-effects. Synthetic hormones take over the function of the body. In the case of the birth control pill, its action on the body is known as chemical castration, actually shutting down the ovaries. So, our own hormones are shut down and replaced with carcinogenic drugs that are hundreds if not thousands of times more powerful that what our body makes.
In the case of HRT, these hormones also commandeer the functioning of the ovaries. Synthetic hormones are not the identical match to our own hormones. As I explained in Hormone Heresy, the majority of women, if they were to get a saliva test to check their hormones, instead of a blood test, will discover that they are not deficient at all in estrogen. So adding more estrogen to a woman’s body that is already making enough, or even too much, will add fuel to the breast cancer fire.
HRT and the birth control Pill have also been associated with strokes, blood clots, compromised immunity, inflammation, depression, loss of libido, liver toxicity, migraine headaches, hypothyroidism, and allergies.
Synthetic hormones are very powerful and very toxic drugs and must be used at the lowest levels, and only when really required. Unfortunately, most medical doctors do not understand this.
Crusador: How prevalent are synthetic estrogens in our environment and are they even more dangerous than the ones found in the pill and HRT?
Synthetic chemicals, called xenoestrgens or estrogen-mimics, are all pervasive in our environment. We have reached a point in our polluted world, where these chemicals and other hormone disrupting chemicals have invaded our water, food, air, and our bodies.
Since these synthetic chemicals are able to permeate the placenta, it is a sad fact that no child born in the U.S., or for that matter anywhere in the world, does not contain synthetic chemicals in their bodies.
Hormone disrupting chemicals are found in pesticides, insecticides and fungicides…closer to home they are found in commercial cleaning products, commercial personal care products, out-gassing from carpets, plastic bottles, chemicals in processed foods, etc. They are all pervasive.
Early exposure to estrogen mimics at critical stages of life (i.e. as a fetus, in infancy, and at puberty), act on the delicate hormonal signals and causes massive hormonal havoc. We must remember that estrogen is known as a human carcinogen. Not only can estrogen proliferate cell growth leading to cancers, especially breast, uterine, lung and brain cancers, but early exposure can also make infants sensitive to these chemicals in the future, making later exposure much more powerful.
Crusador: What other hormone disrupting compounds are we being exposed to beyond synthetic estrogen that can be a culprit in breast cancer, and other cancers?
There are literally thousand of chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis that can create hormone disruption. No one knows exactly how many synthetic chemicals have been unleashed on this planet. A generally accepted figure — necessarily an estimate — is that 100,000 are in use worldwide, with more than 1,000 new chemicals entering the marketplace every year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency keeps a list of about 85,000 in its registry and of these, only a small fraction have ever been tested individually for their impact on the health of human beings.
Let’s have a look at two of the most pervasive and dangerous classes of hormone disrupting chemicals: parabens and phthalates.
Parabens are a group of chemicals used as a preservative in many personal-care products, such as lotions, shampoo, sunscreen, skin foundation and bath gels. They are used to prevent the growth of bacteria and other organisms in the bottle, but they also acts like a weak estrogen. In some studies, exposure to environmental estrogens, like parabens, has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. In fact, parabens have been found in breast tumors.
The other indicated chemical group, phthalates, can be found in nail and hair products, including gels, mousses and hair sprays, as well as skin creams and lotions. These chemicals are used to help the skin absorb the product, but they have been linked to certain birth defects and cancer. Like parabens, they also seem to disrupt the natural hormones in the body, which in turn, may increase the risk of breast cancer.
Estrogens, phthalates and parabens may collect in the tissue over time and slowly alter healthy cells, which is why teens and adolescents may be the most susceptible to their ill effects because over years of use there may be cumulative damage. Adolescence is the time when breasts are developing, so this is clearly a time when exposure matters for developing breast cancer 10, 20 or 30 years later.
Crusador: Why do women need to be especially concerned about what chemicals babies are exposed to?
Our children are extremely vulnerable to toxic chemicals. These chemicals have free passage through the placenta into the womb and into the bodies of the developing fetus.
Toxic chemicals are absorbed through the skin of our children whether its from the creams, shampoos, bubble bath, bath water, etc. The skin is not a protective barrier but rather, the largest organ of the body that is absorbing these chemicals right into the blood stream. In fact, the skin is 600 times more effective in its ability to absorb than through ingesting by mouth.
Crusador: How bad are soy infant formulas and why do you feel they should be avoided at all costs?
Contrary to the advertising messages that bombard us about the fabulous health benefits of soy, it turns out to be a very toxic food for many reasons (unless eaten in its fermented form).
Soy infant formula is a disaster for both female and male infants. Soy, in fact, is a very estrogenic food. The daily estrogen exposure to infants who drank soy formulas was 6-11 times higher than adults consuming soy foods. In fact, research has discovered that that the estrogenic effect from giving soy formula to infants is equivalent to the amount of estrogen in five birth control pills a day! How shocking is that?
In addition to its estrogenic component, soy formulas and soy foods are extremely allergenic foods. They also block the absorption of minerals, lead to malnutrition and digestive distress, they compromise the immune system, and they can alter thyroid function. Giving our children soy foods, at any age, is putting them at risk for many health conditions.
There are recipes included in this section to make health baby formulas. I list a number of ways of to make your own healthy infant formula or to fortify commercial ones so that you can provide all the nutritional needs that a growing infant requires. What’s scary is that the soy industry is aggressively marketing soy foods as healthy alternatives for our children. Make no mistake, this is a lie.
Crusador: Why are so many little girls going through puberty at such a young age?
Indications of something going terribly wrong on the hormonal front are the growing incidences of early puberty. A major published study in 1997 received national attention when it was reported that 1 out of 6 eight year old girls were going into puberty. By the age of 10, 50 percent of 10 year olds were getting their menstrual cycles. I have spoken to parents who are horrified to discover pubic hair and breast buds occurring in their five year daughter.
Those are terrifying statistics. It is an established fact that the earlier a girl menstruates, the greater her life time risk of getting breast cancer. This is primarily due to long time exposure to estrogens. So, early puberty is a risk factor for breast cancer.
Just look around these days. Many third grade girls have the breast development of 12 and 13 year olds. Not very long ago, the average age for a girl to begin menstruating was 14-17 years of age.
There are other problems associated with this early puberty. These girls tend to have more hormonal problems, are more disruptive at school, have more depression, and have a greater risk of suicide. Just imagine what it might be like to have the emotional development of an eight year old with the raging hormones found in a 13 year old. Children with early puberty do not have a clue what’s happening to them, nor the maturity to deal with it.
Crusador: Your book is mainly focused on females. Can you elaborate a little on what’s happening with the males?
It's important to understand that all our children, both girls and boys are exposed to these hormone disrupting environments.
Little boys are also going through early puberty. The statistic are the same as for girls, 1 of out 6 eight year old boys are also showing signs of public hair growth and other puberty changes. Boys as young as nine years old are developing mature genetalia, producing sperm and have spontaneous erections.
The health risks of early puberty in males include an increased risk of testicular cancer, lower fertility rates and impaired growth, leading to a shorter stature.
Crusador: How do you feel that your efforts to alert women will in any way get through to a teenager or a career oriented woman that wants the pleasures of sex without producing life when you say they should avoid the pill for health reasons?
It is definitely challenging to get the message across to young women that there are serious health and fertility consequences from taking the Pill. The Pill has become such an accepted part of our modern lives that little thought is given to any consequences. We have the pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession to thank for that. They continually tell women that the Pill is perfectly safe while prescribing it for any hormonal problem a woman may have.
Not only is the Pill the preferred drug to prescribe for hormonal problems, there is now a huge media campaign by the drug companies to convince young women to eliminate their menstrual cycles by taking the continuous low dose Pill. The media message is that menstrual cycles are unproven, unnecessary, uncomfortable, and a nuisance. So, now the continuous low Pill can totally stop menstrual cycles. I call it the medicalizing of menstruation. And why is this happening? To sell more drugs, of course! This is an unmitigated disaster to the health, hormonal balance, and fertility of young women.
There are many studies showing that early use of the pill increases infertility. It’s interesting to note that 25 percent of U.S. couples are infertile. Unfortunately, women have lost the knowledge of the sacredness and power of their menstrual cycles. It is time to restore ancient wisdom teaching women to honor and become in tune with their menstrual cycles.
Crusador: What advice would you give to a woman going through menopause that took the pill throughout a good part of her life and now has complications and side effects from it?
My message to women of all ages is that all hormonal imbalances from PMS to menopausal symptoms are symptoms of compromised health. Our hormones don’t get out of balance by chance or as a inherent programming by nature. Hormonal issues are the result of a toxic environment, toxic foods, stressful life styles, pharmaceutical drugs, nutritional deficiencies, and poorly functioning physiological systems. The real message is to get healthy.
When I was going through hormonal challenges in my early 40’s with night sweats, insomnia, weight gain, loss of libido, depression etc., I learned that all these imbalances were caused by the all the above issues, not merely the event of perimenopause.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I have assisted thousands of women with all kinds of hormonal imbalances in regaining their health and thus their hormonal well-being. Committing to making the necessary healthy changes is imperative at any age.
Crusador: What type of herbs and natural supplements should women of all ages be taking regularly to remain healthy?
First, it’s important to eliminate what I call hormone wreckers. Certain foods will guarantee hormonal problems. They include the usual suspects: refined carbohydrates, sugar, pasteurized milk products, alcohol, processed foods, hydrogenated oil, transfats and processed vegetable oils, non-organic foods, and lack of adequate hydration.
The most basic nutritional support for all of us no matter the age is usually a good probiotic, a good multi-vitamin and a multi-mineral, an anti-oxidant formula and essential fatty acids (i.e., fish oils, coconut oil, virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, and butter).
Obviously, it’s important to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, along with seeds and nuts. The best hormone balancing foods include cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Onion and garlic are supper healthy foods along with green tea. I think we should all be using some form of lacto-fermented foods to help with digestion such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso etc. My favorite spice is turmeric because of it’s a known anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and liver detoxifying properties. Also remember to balance blood sugar by making sure every meal contains some protein, healthy fats and complex carbs (vegetables). Never skip meals.
Crusador: What other recommendations can you offer that will leave women reading this interview with a sense of hope and direction.
I hope my greatest message of inspiration is that by making small, incremental changes we can have profound effects on the health of our family and ourselves. The body has a tremendous capacity for healing and health if given half a chance.
The other important message I would like to share with women is that we are immensely powerful. As we learn and make the necessary changes in our family, our passion and knowledge can expand to our community and out to the world.
I love Eleanor Roosevelt words of inspiration. “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” As women, we have access to tremendous candle power and collectively we can shine tremendous light into this world.
That’s why I wrote this book….to provide a little bit of that candlepower to mothers (and fathers) who are determined to make a difference to the health of their children and future generations.