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Estrogen Creams Affect More Than Their Users
Americans are obsessed with youth. Adults will do virtually anything to look, feel and act young. We want perfectly shaped bodies with smooth, wrinkle-free skin — no bulges, no double chins, flat bellies and perfectly lean legs (whatever that means).
Plastic surgery and skin-smoothing injections have exploded into a multibillion-dollar industry. Many post-menopausal women have looked to hormone replacement as a good route for retaining that youthful look. Unfortunately, for these women seeking the fountain of youth, estrogen creams may have some unusual side effects.
As more and more evidence links the tablet forms of hormone replacement therapy to increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke, physicians are turning to patches and creams to treat the symptoms of menopause. In the last four years, there has been a six-fold increase in the use of creams containing estrogens. And this number does not include the many more women who are receiving bioidentical hormones compounded by a pharmacist.
Whatever the source of estrogen cream, an unusual side effect has been identified.
A recent article in The New York Times reported that veterinarians have been seeing spayed dogs and cats suddenly becoming hormonal. Female pets went into heat and male pets developed swollen breasts and hair loss.
After a little research, the Veterinary Information Network reported that women using topical estrogen creams were not taking proper precautions with their pets, letting dogs or cats lick and rub against the treated skin. As a result, those pets absorbed the topical estrogens and went into heat!
Unfortunately, pets are not the only victims. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that eight children exposed to an estrogen spray (Evamist) developed premature puberty. Similar problems have been identified in children and pets exposed to men's testosterone cream.
This problem can be avoided if the creams are appropriately used. Most importantly, patients should thoroughly wash their hands to assure that no one comes in contact with the creams.
Estrogen creams are often used for cosmetic reasons to treat skin that looks older, more wrinkled and less taut. Studies have clearly shown that estrogens improve skin thickness and blood flow and can reduce and prevent the development of wrinkles. Published in the journal of Fertility and Sterility, a research report showed that the severity of wrinkles in 11 facial locations was 40 percent less in women on hormone replacement than in women who were not.
Despite the proven benefits, the way you look should never be a reason to elect hormone replacement. Whatever the mode of administration, hormone replacement treatment should be limited to those who have symptoms that can be ascribed to menopause (hot flashes, behavioral problems, headaches). Moreover, hormone replacement therapy should be used at the lowest dose and for as short a time as possible.
What should you do to keep your skin youthful? Experts in the field recommend the use of moisturizing sunscreens every day and a moisturizer at night. And avoid smoking. In addition, it is important to use a gentle cleanser to remove only dead skin.
Do not wash aggressively, which can remove the outer layers of the skin called the stratum corneum. This outer layer helps protect against sun damage and keeps the skin looking young. Over-the-counter preparations containing retinoids appear to maintain a healthy skin with fewer wrinkles.
More aggressive approaches to improving looks and reducing wrinkles include surgery and Botox injections.
To me, as a geriatrician who sees the most amazing older adults, beauty is found in those men and women who live well, enjoy life and achieve their goals.
Remember, being comfortable in your own skin and how it looks is a measure of self-esteem — which is considerably more healthy than staying wrinkle-free. Only consider aggressive changes to the way you look if you unequivocally believe it will seriously improve the quality of your life.
Dr. David Lipschitz is the author of the books, "Breaking the Rules of Aging" and "Dr. David's First Health Book of More Not Less." To find out more about Dr. David Lipschitz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. More information is available at www.DrDavidHealth.com.
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