New Research and the TH3 Epidemic

This article was written by William C. Amalu, DC, DABCT, DIACT, FIACT

Before we dive into the reasoning behind why we are seeing so many TH3 thermograms, let’s review the physiology that causes these infrared images.

Estrogen is a powerful steroid that, in the breast, primarily acts upon the ductal cells. The hormone causes the ductal cells to grow and multiply. Normal levels of estrogen (estrogen in balance with progesterone) cause normal ductal cell changes. Unopposed estrogen (lack of balance resulting in increased levels of estrogen) causes an increase in ductal cell growth and multiplication (ductal hyperplasia). This stimulation of the ductal cells causes an increase in cellular metabolism. In order to sustain this cellular growth and multiplication, the cells demand more oxygen and metabolites (food). This causes an increase in the size and number of blood vessels in order to bring in nutrients and remove waste. The end result is an infrared image that has a symmetrical appearance of a specific vascular pattern originating from the main arterial supply and venous drainage of the breast.

Estrogen plays a major role in the pathogenesis of breast cancer via the uptake into the cell through the mechanism of the estrogen receptor (ER). Its association with many of the epidemiological risk factors for breast carcinoma (e.g. age of menarche, first child, breast feeding, menopause, and the use of oral contraceptives, or hormone replacement therapy) is well known. The pathogenesis of estrogen as it relates to the cause of breast cancer is through two mechanisms: 1.) The aromatization (breakdown) of estrogen in the breast causing carcinogenic byproducts and, 2.) Direct stimulation of pre-cancerous and cancerous cellular growth (cancerous ductal cells).

Some studies suggest that the use of soy and flax will block the ER, thus decreasing the risk of breast cancer. Unfortunately, if the key (estrogen, soy, flax, etc.) fits the lock (ER receptor on the cell membrane) it may open the door to the effects on the cell. How would we know if the ER was either blocked or triggered? Perhaps we can observe the effects via MIR. It is well established that the effects of various hormones on the breast can be detected by MIR. The infrared vascular display produced by increased levels of estrogen, the hormones of pregnancy, and the hormonal interactions during lactation are well established and understood. When unopposed estrogen is treated, and hormonal balance is restored in the breast, the infrared display is returned to normal. We see this same effect when breast cancer patients are given Tamoxifen. More than 75% of all breast cancers are ER positive. This means that in these patients estrogen promotes the growth of their cancer. Tamoxifen is classified as an ER antagonist, it blocks the receptor so that circulating estrogen cannot bind and activate the cancer cells. When comparing the initial breast cancer images of these patients to the post-surgical images we not only see the resolution of the malignant neoangiogensis, but the background evidence of estrogen dominance has also resolved due to the patient taking Tamoxifen. We also have evidence of many variations on this theme (e.g. post-surgical images before Tamoxifen use) still resulting in the normalization of the estrogen dominant images due to Tamoxifen. Now that we have established that MIR has the ability to detect the effects of unopposed estrogen, and the positive effects of treatment (e.g progesterone, Tamoxifen), how does this relate to phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens?

If, as it has been postulated, soy and other phytoestrogens such as flax act as ER receptor blockers, we should be able to clearly observe these effects with MIR. Unfortunately, what we observe in the vast majority of women is the opposite. Soy and flax, but soy to a much great extent, affects the breast in the same way as estrogen. And again, how do we know this? When women take these phytoestrogens their MIR images change from normal to the vascular pattern seen with unopposed estrogen; and when they stop taking theses phytoestrogens their images return to normal. What this is demonstrating is that these phytoestrogens are binding with the ER and causing the same direct ductal cell stimulation, and resulting increase in vascularity, that estrogen does. Many women who stop taking soy will also tell you that their breasts become less sore, tender, and fibrocystic to the touch. This is also one of the same things women will tell you when stopping medications that left them estrogen imbalanced. Studies on phytoestrogens, especially on soy, also support these findings. It is unfortunate that the media, and the soy boards, push only the studies that promote things their way.

Now that we have a handle on how the physiology of the breast is affected, and how this affects the MIR images, let’s discuss what this has led to over time.

Some of you may have been noticing that over the past few years there has been a definite rise in the number of breast images that are being graded as TH3s. Along with this has been a steady decrease in TH1s. This has also been observed by other thermologists. We have been discussing the possible reasons for this and have put forth a plausible reason. A steady increase in use of soy in the diet, along with xenoestrogens and the increased use of flax seed products, is causing two things to occur in the breast: 1.) Direct stimulation of ductal cell growth and multiplication, and, 2.) A “fertile field” of open vasculature in the breast as a byproduct of the effects of these “other” estrogens on the metabolism of the ductal cells. In this environment, atypical cells (pre-cancer), early stage DCIS, or other breast cancers may receive direct stimulation promoting growth (e.g. ER positive cancers) along with taking advantage of the resulting increase in blood flow to maintain growth. This, in turn, may be creating the vascular asymmetries and hyperthermic findings we are seeing in all these TH3s.

Phytoestrogens in the diet, primarily soy, has increased at an alarming rate. It is becoming very difficult to find foods that do not contain soy. As such, the public is being forced to eat ever increasing amounts of soy without their knowledge. Taking this into consideration, and adding deliberate uses of soy in the diet (tofu, soy milk, etc.), may be causing the increased number of TH3 gradings via the pathway mentioned above. To this can be added xenoestrogens found in make-up, shampoo, sunscreens, and many other hygiene products and chemicals in our home and office environments. Considering these exposures as a whole could account for the significant rise in estrogen dominant images seen over the past 15 years. In 1995 we used to see approximately 45-50% of women scanned with estrogen dominant images; the number now approaches 95%. The resulting direct stimulation of cellular growth, and increase in blood flow, may be pushing more and more thermograms into the TH3 range.

A new piece of the puzzle is also emerging. I recommend that you do a search on the net for GMO (genetically modified) foods and pesticides. There is brand new research out showing strong evidence that GMO foods, especially combined with common pesticides, causes cancer. Due to these findings a great number of countries around the world are now refusing to purchase GMO crops from other countries. They are taking this very seriously.

Many of the pesticides alone have been found to have powerful estrogenic effects. And even more data is coming out about certain regions using powerful herbicides to kill plants encroaching on roadsides. These pesticides and herbicides are very powerful xenoestrogens; so much so that the sex of fish, alligators, and other aquatic animals are being altered to female when rain runoff takes these pesticides and herbicides into lakes. These are powerful endocrine disrupters.

Add these new xenoestrogen findings to the known dietary intake of soy and we have a recipe for an epidemic of TH3s (See the paper published below. This is only one example of many papers on this subject). The breast is being bombarded by so many outside estrogen sources that it makes sense that we are seeing what we are seeing. Keep in mind that these xenoestrogens have an affinity for fat tissue and can build up in the fat tissue over time. I now understand why so many women over 50 are showing thermograms that have the vascular appearance of pregnancy, and sometimes lactation!

As a warning signal, these TH3 images may be considered the best news for women. These women now have a chance to make changes and possibly head off a future cancer at a point in time that is extremely early. We have the technology to warn women of this situation and alert their doctors to this problem. I truly believe that we have the finest technology available at this time to play the most important role in prevention.

Isn’t it incredible, we were seeing all of these metabolic breast changes long before the possible causes were found. Thermography is the proverbial canary in the mine!

Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Sep;59:129-36. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.05.057. Epub 2013 Jun 10.