Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy
George Orwell's novel 1984 predicted a society with language controls and "double speak." It astonishes me how accurate these predictions have been in the field of medicine, as evidenced by the fact that various medical establishments meet regularly to decide how their members ought to think about issues such as hormones.
Some say that, without sufficient evidence to the contrary, all estrogens are alike and all progesterone/progestins are alike. Even basic science courses, going back decades, teach that very small differences in shape and size between molecules can have significant differences in their effects on the body. Recently, the KEEPS study opened the door to the idea that perhaps all estrogens are NOT alike. (See KEEPS Study for more info.)
One of the most enduring (and preposterous) pronouncements has been that women without a uterus do not need progesterone. The idea is that the hormone progesterone has a single function, which is to slough off accumulated tissue in the uterus and in doing so, preventing uterine cancer, and that it has no other effects on the body. In a perverse way, this pronouncement has saved numerous women from the effects of progestins (altered progesterone molecules) such as medroxyprogesterone, which was linked in the Women's Health Initiative Study with an increase in breast cancer risk.