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Topic: DHEA supplements

Forum: LCIS (Lobular Carcinoma In Situ) — Just diagnosed, in treatment, or finished treatment for LCIS.

Posted on: Jan 26, 2008 04:51PM

Lorax wrote:

My blood work showed extremely low levels of DHEA and I am interested in taking a supplement, but my nurse practioner (primary care provider) says wait until breast issues are resolved.  Well, they are as resolved as they are going to get for the time being, with LCIS. 

Has anyone considered or experienced with taking a DHEA supplement?  I know the benefits are good bone health, ( I have osteopenia) more energy and more libido.  I am premenopausal but have had drastic reduction in energy and libido and am not happy.  Any thoughts? 

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Jan 26, 2008 05:32PM - edited Jan 26, 2008 05:53PM by saluki

I don't know your situation Lorax.

I am ER+/PR+ and I'd avoid this supplement like the plague.  It is made

in the adrenals and is converted into androgens and estrogens.

I've been taking an AI for almost 5 years to avoid this.  Fueling BC with estrogen is bad news.

JMHO--way too risky.  

If bio-identical hormones are what you want to do be very cautious and be sure you have a hormonally negative BC.

I know it can be very tempting since DHEA can give you an extraordinary sense of well-being, strength, good bones etc---but please do be careful considering this.

If this is what you really want to do --you may want to investigate this form  of it instead:

7-Keto DHEA
The Safe Alternative to DHEA?
Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is made from cholesterol by the adrenal glands
which sit on top of the kidneys in the posterior flanks. Once DHEA is absorbed, it is
converted into DHEA-S (the conjugated sulfate ester) and can be found at peak levels in
the blood serum for 7 to 10 hours.
DHEA levels are highest during fetal development in the womb. After birth, the levels of
DHEA decrease steadily until the age of 5 to 7 years. At this point, the levels of DHEA
begin to increase again through puberty and achieve maximal concentrations in the blood
at 25 years of age. After this, levels of DHEA begin to fall once again at a rate of
approximately 2% per year. By the time humans reach 70 years of age, DHEA levels are
typically at 10% to 20% of their peak levels seen at 25 years of age. The reasons for this
decline are not well understood. Proponents of DHEA supplementation have pointed to
this natural decline in DHEA levels with age as a reason to take DHEA as we get older.
Studies have thus far failed to demonstrate the wisdom of this wholesale
The exact purpose and functioning of DHEA is not completely understood either. We do
know that DHEA is metabolized to androstenedione which is a hormone that breaks
down to testosterone and estrogen. A recent study demonstrated increased levels of
estrogen in male athletes taking androstenedione in hopes to grow bigger muscles. They
unexpectedly ended up getting increased levels of estrogen which made it more likely
that they would grow breasts instead of muscles. This was a very unexpected finding
because many athletes have tried androstenedione after baseball slugger Mark McGuire
claimed that it helped him in his workouts. DHEA can also be converted into male or
female hormones, and this process seems to depend on a person’s sex hormone balance.
Scientists and physicians have been concerned about unsupervised DHEA
supplementation because this may increase blood levels of estrogen or testosterone. Men
and women taking DHEA may inadvertently be putting themselves at risk of prostate
cancer (as a result of increased levels of testosterone) or breast cancer (as a result of
increased levels of estrogen).
Some DHEA is metabolized differently, and instead of producing more sex hormones,
this alternative pathway produces a hormone known as 7-keto-DHEA (or 3-acetyl-7-oxo-
DHEA). 7-keto-DHEA is now available in health food stores and is touted as the “safe”
alternative to DHEA because 7-keto-DHEA is not converted into the sex hormones,
testosterone or estrogen.
Some manufacturers of 7-keto-DHEA claim that their hormone
has all of the benefits of DHEA without any of the risks. These touted benefits include
increasing metabolism via thermogenesis (literally burning calories by “generating
heat”), reduce the signs of Alzheimer’s disease, improve memory, and boost immune
function. This has only been tested on laboratory animals and never credibly tested in
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Small clinical studies conducted over 8 weeks in 18 men given 7-keto-DHEA did not
show increases in the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), insulin (regulates blood
sugar), estrogen, or dihydrotestosterone (a male hormone related to testosterone). Blood
levels of testosterone actually decreased (601 ng/dL to 554 ng/dL) when the men were
given 7-keto-DHEA. Blood levels of interleukin-2 (an immune system hormone) did
increase when the men’s white blood cells (part of the immune system) were studied in
the laboratory. This may indicate a stimulation on the immune system, but the
significance of this single effect is unknown.
Women who are premenopausal may have an increased risk of breast cancer if their
DHEA-S levels are low. This increased risk may be due to the imbalance of hormones.
Less DHEA-S means that there will be more estrogen relative to male hormones like
DHEA-S. This imbalance toward higher “appearing” estrogen levels may stimulate
breast cancer cells which are somewhat dependent on estrogen to grow. However,
before premenopausal women rush out to take DHEA, they should understand that high
levels of DHEA-S can cause other unwanted side effects such as acne, hirsutism
(excessive body and facial hair), and infertility. So premenopausal women with low
levels of DHEA-S must be careful about supplementing with DHEA in order to avoid the
side effects seen with high levels of DHEA-S.
After menopause, elevated levels of blood DHEA levels will increase estrogen levels in
the blood. This will increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer which is exactly opposite to
what happens when a premenopausal woman takes DHEA. Moreover, taking DHEA
after menopause may increase the risk of heart disease (by increasing the levels of male
hormones), increase the risk of diabetes (by making the body resistant to insulin), and
increasing fat stores on the belly (like the “tire” men tend to get as they get older). This
hardly seems like the “fountain of youth” hormone DHEA is claimed to be.
In men over 50 years old, high levels of DHEA-S are associated with an decreased risk of
death from heart disease. This is opposite to what happens to women over 50. Scientists
think that the reason for this difference is that when there is plenty of testosterone around
(as would be expected in a healthy male) then the body will convert DHEA into estrogen.
We know that estrogen protects the body from heart disease. Obviously, determining
who should or should not be taking DHEA is quite confusing.
Unfortunately, long term clinical trials to sort out some of the contradictions of DHEA
have still not been done. Most of the claims regarding the effectiveness and value of
DHEA supplements remain unproven. One exception is a recent study which
demonstrated improved erectile function in impotent men who had low levels of DHEA
which were corrected with DHEA supplements. Men with these symptoms should have
their DHEA levels tested by their doctor to see if they might be a candidate for DHEA
There have been no significant long term clinical studies documenting the safety or
efficacy of DHEA. Improvements in the immune system, cancer fighting abilities,
improved physical and emotional wellbeing, and lowered cholesterol have all been tested
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but not convincingly. In many cases, the studies concluded that DHEA had no real effect
such as with boosting the immune system or improving physical and psychological
While there have been a host of animal experiments using mice, rabbits, and rats which
have showed positive effects, we have to remember that these animals do not make
DHEA. Since humans do make DHEA, giving more hormones to people is very different
than giving DHEA to animal species who have a completely different hormone system
than we do. Humans and bunnies simply cannot be compared when it comes to taking
DHEA, and what happens to bunnies given DHEA should not be construed as relevant to
As a result, scientists are not clear on what the dose of 7-keto-DHEA should be in
humans. Small studies seem to suggest that people can take up to 200mg daily, but these
studies are tainted by the fact that they were done by the companies which make DHEA.
We do know that DHEA supplements may be associated with liver damage in some
Bottom Line: Based on our current level of knowledge and research, 7-keto-DHEA
supplementation cannot be recommended. While it is likely that 7-keto-DHEA is in fact
safer than DHEA supplements, the proper dose and frequency of supplementation is
unknown. Further clinical study is needed to determine who needs 7-keto-DHEA and
when they should start or stop taking it. Those taking DHEA should have their blood
levels of DHEA tested in order to ensure that they are taking a proper and safe dose.
Annotated Reference List
1.Baulieu E. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): A fountain of youth? J Clin Endocrinol
Metab, 1996;81(9):3147-51.
2.Weeks C, Lardy H, Henwood S. Preclinical toxicology evaluation of 3-acetyl-7-oxo-
dehydroepiandrosterone, (7-keto DHEA) [abstract]. Accepted for presentation at
Experimental Biology 98. San Francisco, CA, April 19-22, 1998.
3. McNeil C. Potential drug DHEA hits snags on way to clinic. J Natl Cancer Inst
4.Morales AJ, Nolan JJ, Nelson JC, Yen SSC. Effects of replacement dose of
dehydroepiandrosterone in men and women of advancing age. J Clin Endocrinol Metab
5.Schwartz AG, Pashko LL. Cancer prevention with dehydroepiandrosterone and non-
androgenic structural analogs. J Cell Biochem Suppl 1995;22:210-17.

Susie, member since Jan. 2003 Dx 12/12/2002, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIB, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 26, 2008 06:04PM saluki wrote:

Here is some further info from the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago

7-Keto: A Better Way To Take DHEA?

A steroidal hormone called DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) has been the subject of rampant rumors alleging miraculous anti-aging effects. These rumors, based largely on animal research, were fueled by two recent studies led by Dr. Arlene Morales. The studies indicated that DHEA improved physical and psychological well being in older persons. The results of these studies, however, had not been seen in recent follow-up research.

DHEA has been the subject of thousands of animal studies and a few studies in humans, suggesting potential health benefits in diabetes, immunity and cancer. In most cases these possible benefits have not been demonstrated in human clinical trials. As Dr. Morales explained in a recent review of DHEA research, "...the inapplicability of this data to humans is not appreciated, as the physiology of adrenal androgens in humans and a few primates is unique." And despite some marketers' claims there is no proof that DHEA enhances longevity, sex drive or weight control, or that it prevents heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, colds and flu.

Also, DHEA may have a dark side. By facilitating internal production of testosterone and estrogen, supplemental DHEA could accelerate the growth of undetected prostate or breast tumors. Studies have shown higher levels of DHEA - and estrogens made from it - in people with breast cancer and endometrial cancer.

Still, the benefits seen in animal studies and the two small studies indicating improved physical and psychological well being have made DHEA a hot consumer commodity. This has left many people in a quandary, wanting the potential preventive health and anti-aging benefits of DHEA, but dissuaded by reports of its potential dangers.

Potential Benefits of 7-KETO DHEA
According to Henry Lardy, PhD, of the National Academy of Sciences, 7-KETO DHEA offers the potential benefits of DHEA without the risks. 7-KETO DHEA is a natural metabolite, also called conversion product, of DHEA. Once DHEA is converted to the 7-KETO form it can no longer be used to make the sex hormones that present cancer risks.

In preliminary studies on animals, 7-Keto DHEA stimulates the immune system, prevents muscle loss (anti-catabolic), reduces stress, increases the calorie-burning rate by activating thermogenic liver enzymes and improves memory more than DHEA or a placebo. Monkeys infected with the simian version of HIV displayed weight gain, a five-fold increase in T-cell counts and improvement in overall behavior and clinical condition.

Is 7-KETO DHEA safe?
Short and long-term safety studies show 7-KETO DHEA is not mutagenic. That means it has not damaged the DNA in rats and monkeys, and it has no other adverse effects, even at milligram/body weight doses up to 70 times the recommended dose for humans, which is 50 mg a day.

One 28-day human safety trial has been completed. It confirmed that 7-KETO DHEA does not raise levels of sex or other hormones or affect blood and urine chemistry, at doses of up to 200 mg per day. It cannot convert to estrogens or testosterone, so it cannot promote prostate enlargement or cancer, breast tumors and other sex hormone effects that may occur with DHEA supplementation.


Susie, member since Jan. 2003 Dx 12/12/2002, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIB, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 26, 2008 06:25PM Lorax wrote:

Thanks for your comments and for providing the research, I was gung-ho to start it, but will definitely think twice!  I am wary of the 7-Keto DHEA as well.  I did read one study that indicated that running increased the levels of DHEA - I guess that might be safer - just more work!

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Dec 17, 2011 01:40PM - edited Dec 17, 2011 01:41PM by tuckertwo

Hi ladies,

I have a question about DHEA as well. My levels were low to w/in normal limits but I recently had my estrogen levels tested and the DHEA was 8.0.  The range is 2.2 to 7.5.  My understanding is that DHEA should stay low if one is estrogen positive. I am weakly ER+. I am working with a naturopath/compounding pharmacist who says stress can drive DHEA up. I am hoping that is all it is.

Any info from any of you? Thanks,


"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed...nothing will be impossible for you'. Matthew 17:20 Dx 8/27/2008, IDC, 2cm, Stage II, Grade 3, 0/8 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Dec 17, 2011 01:42PM tuckertwo wrote:

Do any of you take supplements to reduce DHEA? Forgot to ask in previous post.



"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed...nothing will be impossible for you'. Matthew 17:20 Dx 8/27/2008, IDC, 2cm, Stage II, Grade 3, 0/8 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Jul 9, 2018 11:11AM - edited Jul 9, 2018 11:34AM by Jbug3

I was prescribed DHEA by my rheumatologist for my chronic fatigue after she measured my DHEA levels in my blood and found that they were low. I had gone through a job change and insurance change and was without insurance for a short time and went three years without a mammogram. I had been taking DHEA supplements for those three years and after acquiring different insurance I got my yearly exam and my mammogram. They found a spot on my mammogram that turned out to be a tumor and was estrogen-positive breast cancer. I had the tumor removed and luckily it had not spread to my lymph nodes and I underwent chemotherapy and I'm currently taking radiation treatments. I stopped taking the DHEA after realizing that it may have had a effect on my estrogen levels and was feeding the tumor. My advice would be to do some research on the effects of DHEA and estrogen positive breast cancer before you take the supplement or any other supplement for that matter. I had no idea when I was taking it that it could have caused this and I have no proof that it was the cause of my breast cancer but it is still quite the coincidence.

I would also mention there is research that shows that the "modified " DHEA directly stimulates the estrogen receptors the same as estrogen and the cancer cells react the same as if they were being stimulated by estrogen. See "Dangers of DHEA" a report by Yaletown Neuropathic Clinic.

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