What is the difference between bioidentical and synthetic hormones, and why does it matter?
In 2002, a study of a new combination hormone replacement therapy conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative was stopped abruptly after a higher risk of breast cancer, stroke, blood clots, and heart disease was discovered in participants. This caused many medical practitioners to refrain from supplying any type of hormone replacement therapy until more research has been completed. It has only been recently that the demand for this therapy has had some focused attention.
Bioidentical is a term used to describe hormones that are identical in molecular structure to the hormones produced by the human body. They are often referred to as “natural” hormone therapy, even through they are genetically developed in a laboratory from yams. In this particular case, the difference between bioidentical hormone pellets and synthetic hormone pellets is simply referring to whether or not the hormone is identical in molecular structure to hormones naturally produced in the body.
Synthetic hormones are synthesized in a laboratory using hormones found in animals that have been slightly molecularly altered rather than replicating human hormones. Why? Pharmaceutical companies cannot get a patent on a natural human compound. So if they can’t patent it, they cannot exclusively sell it and make a profit.
Conjugated equine estrogens are derived from pregnant mares’ urine, which would be great for horses but not necessarily for humans. Synthetic hormones are as useful and valid as their bioidentical counterparts but carry more risks, as evidenced by the discontinuance of the aforementioned Women’s Health Initiative study, which used only synthetic hormones.
Research has shown that there is an increased risk for breast cancer and cardiovascular disease with synthetic hormones, and bioidentical hormone therapy is still the suggested solution for intense symptoms.
Like all hormone replacement therapy, there are risks associated with bioidentical and synthetic hormone treatment, and patients who have had cancer, strokes, or blood clots are not recommended to undergo synthetic hormone treatment.
While both hormones are synthesized in a laboratory for use in humans, there have been instances where bioidentical hormone pellets have produced better results than their synthetic counterparts. It is important to work with your doctor or medical professional when undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
Contact My MASC today to learn more about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.