Some commonly used herbal treatments may further increase the risk of breast and uterine cancer for women already predisposed to those diseases. Researchers offer new evidence that herbs such as red clover and motherwort - traditionally used for gynecological complaints - as well as saw palmetto and rhodiola rosea root can have such a strong estrogenic effect they could increase the risk of estrogen-related cancers.
While all the plants can successfully be used to ease a wide variety of symptoms, particularly those associated with menopause and the corresponding drop in natural estrogen levels, researchers say women who want to limit estrogen exposure should think twice before using these herbs.
The study was an animal experiment using rats that had their ovaries surgically removed. Researchers also suggests that the women should err on the side of caution and approach the use of these herbs judiciously, particularly if they are at risk for any estrogen-related cancers. This would include women with a strong family history of breast or uterine cancer, or those who may have already had one or more bouts with either disease.