By Dr. Becker
This month's real story features Anubis, a gorgeous 12-year old female Husky who, I am thrilled to report, is now breast cancer free!
Anubis Was Diagnosed with Breast Cancer a Year Ago
In spring 2011, we discovered Anubis had mammary lumps.
It turned out one was benign, but two were malignant (breast cancer).
I needed to remove all the tumors, of course, but that wasn't the end of it.
I also needed to understand the underlying cause of the breast lumps so we could prevent a recurrence and return Anubis's body to a state of balance.
Since breast cancer is linked to estrogen levels, the first thing I did after diagnosing the lumps was measure her estrogen.
She was at toxic levels.
According to blood tests I ran in April 2011 (page 3), Anubis had extremely high levels of estradiol (estrogen).
Her number was 120.2 … the normal range for this hormone in dogs similar to Anubis is 30.8 to 69.9.
She also had high levels of androstenedione (0.82 where the normal range is .05 to 0.57), the precursor for both estrogen and testosterone.
Anubis's Healing Protocol
After I removed all her breast tumors, I put Anubis on an aggressive post-surgical protocol that included DIM1 (diindolylmethane) to naturally reduce her estrogen levels.
The definition of DIM according to the NIH National Cancer Institute2:
A phytonutrient and plant indole found in cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale, with potential antiandrogenic and antineoplastic activities. As a dimer of indole-3-carbinol, diindolylmethane (DIM) promotes beneficial estrogen metabolism in both sexes by reducing the levels of 16-hydroxy estrogen metabolites and increasing the formation of 2-hydroxy estrogen metabolites, resulting in increased antioxidant activity. Although this agent induces apoptosis in tumor cells in vitro, the exact mechanism by which DIM exhibits its antineoplastic activity in vivo is unknown.
An agent which 'induces apoptosis in tumor cells' is an agent (in this case, DIM) capable of killing off cancer cells.
DIM has been shown to promote beneficial estrogen metabolism in both males and females. The body's ability to effectively metabolize estrogen is an important component in the prevention of certain cancers, in particular breast cancer3. It also plays a role in blood pressure and thyroid function4.
We also improved Anubis' diet and provided an immune support supplement which she'll take for the rest of her life. She hasn't been vaccinated since she became my patient, and she will never be vaccinated again.
In September 2011, five months into her protocol, we measured Anubis's estrogen levels again (page 2). As you can see, her estradiol dropped from 120.2 to 40.4 – well within the healthy range for a spayed female canine.
Why Anubis Developed Toxic Estrogen Levels
In my professional opinion, the problem started with or was dramatically exacerbated by exposure to xenoestrogens.
Xenoestrogens are 'faux' or foreign hormones that mimic the action of estrogen. They are also commonly referred to as environmental hormones or endocrine-disrupting hormones. Xenoestrogens are man-made and differ chemically from naturally occurring estrogen produced by the endocrine system.
There's a tremendous amount of research being done on the potential impact of these foreign hormones on the environment and human health. Most scientists studying xenoestrogens concur they are an environmental hazard with hormone disrupting effects on humans and animals.
Xenoestrogens are created intentionally for inclusion in medications like synthetic estrogen replacement and birth control pills. They are also created indirectly in other chemicals.
These foreign estrogens have been introduced into the environment over the last 70 years by agricultural, chemical and industrial companies, as well as consumers.
Chemicals known to have estrogenic effects5:
Atrazine (weedkiller) Heptachlor (restricted insecticide) 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) (found in sunscreen lotions) Lindane, hexachlorocyclohexane (restricted insecticide) Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) (food preservative) Methoxychlor (banned insecticide) Bisphenol A (used to make plastics)
Nonylphenol and derivatives (laboratory detergents; pesticides)
Pentachlorophenol (restricted biocide; wood preservative)
Dieldrin (banned insecticide)
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) (banned but formerly used in electrical oils, lubricants, adhesives, paints)
DDT (banned insecticide)
Endosulfan (banned insecticide)
Phthalates (used to make plastics)
Erythrosine (FD&C Red No. 3)
DEHP (found in PVC)
Ethinylestradiol (oral contraceptive)
Propyl gallate (used to preserve oils and fats)
Even animals no longer producing their own estrogen after being spayed or neutered can be exposed to overwhelming amounts of environmental toxins that mimic estrogen. I have a number of patients who came to me with wildly unbalanced endocrine systems, including male dogs with estrogen levels higher than what is normal for intact females.
Tips for Minimizing Your Pet's Exposure to Xenoestrogens
This is by no means a complete list, but if you can implement some or all of these things in caring for your pet, you'll dramatically reduce your dog's or cat's exposure to xenoestrogens:
- Use stainless, glass or ceramic food and water bowls
- Don't store pet food in anything plastic, and make sure your pet's water supply isn't coming from plastic containers
- If you cook food for your pet, avoid Teflon and other non-stick cookware
- If you microwave pet food to warm it, use a glass, ceramic or other microwave safe container (not plastic)
- Avoid using cling wrap containing DEHA
Commercial household products often contain xenoestrogens, especially laundry detergents, fabric softeners, air fresheners and insect repellents. I recommend you use 'green' cleaning agents, for example baking soda or vinegar. Avoid fabric softeners, dryer sheets, and pick a laundry detergent that isn't heavily laden with chemicals.
Skip air fresheners and insecticide foggers, and air out your house frequently.
- Avoid pet food containing the common preservatives BHA and BHT, and FD&C Red No. 3 – a common food dye
- If you cook for your pet, use organic ingredients as often as possible
- Find alternatives to synthetic flea repellent products like shampoos, flea collars and flea pesticides
- Use natural pest control around your home and yard
- Don't expose your pet to marijuana use
The Sensitive Question of When to Spay
There's no question breast cancer in dogs, just like breast cancer in women, is an estrogen related cancer.
Advocates of early spaying (from 8 weeks to 6 months of age) often use the threat of breast cancer as part of their rationale. In my view, this is in some ways the equivalent of oncologists recommending ovariohysterectomies for all 8 year-old girls as a way to prevent breast cancer.
Will stopping natural estrogen production early in life reduce the odds a female will get breast cancer? Probably. But at what cost?
More information (from the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation): A Healthier Respect for Ovaries.
Allowing ovulation (which produces estrogen) does in fact put females (humans and dogs) at a statistically higher risk for developing breast cancer. However, most other forms of cancer risk decrease when the female body is allowed to function as nature intended.
The question of when to spay has no one-size-fits-all answer. Early spaying eliminates the risk of pregnancy, pyometra and reduces the risk of breast cancer … but it increases the risk of other cancers and diseases. According to a Rutgers University study6:
- If done before 1 year of age, significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a common cancer in larger breeds with a poor prognosis
- Increases the risk of splenic hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 2.2 and cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of >5; this is a common cancer and major cause of death in some breeds
- Triples the risk of hypothyroidism
- Increases the risk of obesity by a factor of 1.6-2, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems
- Causes urinary "spay incontinence" in 4-20% of female dogs
- Increases the risk of persistent or recurring urinary tract infections by a factor of 3-4
- Increases the risk of recessed vulva, vaginal dermatitis, and vaginitis, especially for female dogs spayed before puberty
- Doubles the small risk (<1%) of urinary tract tumors
- Increases the risk of orthopedic disorders
- Increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations
Spaying your dog later in life reduces the risk of most cancers except breast cancer
Some of my clients take a middle-of-the-road approach. They allow their pets to develop to adulthood, then spay at 2 to 5 years of age.
What's most important is to evaluate each animal to determine what is appropriate for the individual.
Unfortunately, Anubis has developed hypothyroidism (page 1), meaning her thyroid is underactive. This is a common result of spaying, which is why we re-check her thyroid levels every 6 months. She's currently taking Nature-Throid7, a non-synthetic thyroid hormone replacement to treat her condition.
Otherwise, my good friend Anubis is almost a year free from additional breast tumors and her estrogen levels remain normal.
Anubis and her mom