Hormones Hell on the Gut
Results from two studies found that younger women on the pill tripled their risk of Crohn’s disease and post-menopausal women taking hormone replacement therapy were 1.7 times more likely to develop ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease results when the lining of the small and/or large intestines becomes inflamed to the point of bleeding. Ulcerative colitis is inflammation of the colon or rectum can lead to diarrhea, abdominal cramps and bleeding of the rectum. Researchers stressed that these studies did not show a cause-and-effect relationship, but the strong association of Crohn’s and the pill do concern them, especially in young women with a family history of the disease. Previous animal studies have demonstrated that estrogen makes the colon more susceptible to inflammation.
One Protein, Two Diseases
A protein initially discovered in bone is also present in breast cells and appears to be related to both osteoporosis and breast cancer. Previous research has shown that RANKL turns on the cells that break down bone when it needs to be replaced, but if too much is expressed and the bone cannot be replaced, osteoporosis results. A recent study found that HRT and the pill trigger RANKL in breast cancer by preventing mammary cells from dying when they should, and allowing stem cells to renew themselves. When the protein was inhibited in mice they developed fewer tumors. A monoclonal antibody, denosumab, was just approved in the U.S. and Europe for osteoporosis works by inhibiting RANKL and is being looked at as a possible treatment for women whose breast cancer has metastasized to bone.