Do Some Breast Cancers Go Away on Their Own?

breast-cancer-research-ZahlIs it possible that as much as 35% of   invasive breast cancers will go away on their own if left alone? This is the conclusion of Norwegian researcher Dr. Per-Henrik Zahl, who analyzed data from more than 600,000 Swedish women, half of whom had regular mammogram screening and half who did not. Dr. Zahl suggests that breast cancers may be over diagnosed, in much the same way that prostate cancers are over diagnosed. The study was published in Lancet Oncology.

What makes this study especially useful is that the so-called “in situ” cancers such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) were excluded. In most cases, DCIS would be better defined as a pre-cancer, just as stage 1 and 2 pap smears are considered pre-cancers. It makes sense that many, if not most “in situ” cancers would go away on their own. This evidence that invasive cancers may also go away on their own is very important, because it could save tens of thousands of women from unnecessary surgery.

Dr. Zahl recommends treating women with small tumors, identified by needle biopsy as estrogen-receptor positive, with tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor.  Both reduce the incidence of breast cancer but have serious side effects. Breast cancer risk can be reduced in many ways, including hormone balancing, good vitamin D levels, avoiding toxins such as pesticides, a wholesome diet and stress management. If women were counseled on these risks, and given support for making the necessary lifestyle changes, odds are good these tiny cancers would regress. I recommend the book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Breast Cancer (Lee, Zava, Hopkins) for a better understanding of what causes breast cancer and what can be done to prevent it.

The Zahl study was very complex so I got in touch with Dr. David Zava, co-author with Dr. John Lee and myself of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Breast Cancer, and asked him to comment on this important research. Here’s what he had to say:

“What Zahl is suggesting is that based on the difference in controls (non screened) and screened women, about 35% of invasive tumors grow to just below detection level (about 1 cm) and then spontaneously regress.  Why this regression happens in some tumors and not others is unknown, but is probably related to a shift in the woman’s hormonal milieu. In perimenopausal women, we know that estrogens are often excessive and progesterone can be very low. So, tumors stimulated by estrogen during this hyper-estrogenic phase would spontaneously regress as estrogen begins to drop with menopause. Alternatively, progesterone could  help correct this imbalance, causing tumor regression to occur in even more than 35% of the cases. The work of Micheli (2004) showing that the higher the endogenous [made in the body] progesterone the lower the incidence of breast cancer, is supportive of this concept.

“I believe that small invasive breast cancers that are beginning to form in the body are more likely to melt away if the hormonal environment that causes them to form in the first place corrects itself either on its own, or with hormones that counter the growth-promoting actions of estrogens, such as progesterone, testosterone, aromatase inhibitors, or anti-estrogens like tamoxifen. When you think of physicians like our mentor John Lee, Helene Leonetti, and others, who find little breast cancer in their clinical practice, the reason, I believe, is because they identify and correct hormonal imbalances, which would cause small lesions to regress.

“I found it interesting that Zahl did conclude more should be done to study the relationship of the hormonal milieu to the incidence of tumor growth and spontaneous tumor regression. Having worked in the field of breast cancer and hormone testing for the past 35 years I concur with Zahl that we need to identify women with hormonal risk profiles for breast cancer and correct these imbalances with lifestyle changes (improved diet, exercise, nutritional supplements) and hormone therapy if needed. Such a wholistic approach  was the basis of John Lee’s clinical practice, and he had very few patients with breast cancer.”

It will probably take a decade or more for various scientists and doctors to take this evidence into account and change the way breast cancer is treated. But women can educate themselves now about risk factors for breast cancer, and think twice before getting surgery for a tiny cancer. Watchful waiting will likely end up being a wise choice for many breast cancers, just as it is for prostate cancer.


Zahl PH, Gotzsche PC, Maehlen J, “Natural history of breast cancers detected in the Swedish mammography screening programme: a cohort study,” Lancet Oncol. 2011 Nov ;12(12):1118-24.

Micheli A, Muti P, Secreto G, “Endogenous sex hormones and subsequent breast cancer in premenopausal women,” Int J Cancer. 2004 Nov 1;112(2):312-8.

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15 Responses to "Do Some Breast Cancers Go Away on Their Own?"

  1. Rosetta Nicholson   November 20, 2011 at 5:25 am

    At 54 years, I was diagnosed with a Stage II invasive, oestrogen positive, 1.2cm carcinoma, with a one tiny lymph node metastase, still encapsulated, in Oct 1998 following many years of oestrogen/progestagin HRT. ( I had also had a hysterectomy and oophorectomy in 1995 for a non-cancerous condition.)

    I opted for removal of the tumour and 1st stage lymph node removal but refused radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormonal adjuvant therapies. I used natural progesterone cream and am still alive without recurrence, 13 years later. But I do have tissue swelling all on that side of the body.

  2. Jean   November 20, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I love that you are giving us research that shows that balancing hormones reduces breast cancer. I’d like you to include the research that supports balancing ESTROGEN , and not just progesterone. Adding bioidentical estrogen with properly balanced progesterone has been shown to be beneficial, but there are so few who have the courage advocate this approach.

  3. ann Carter ANP   November 20, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Excellent article and I agree 100%. I have been specializing in bio-identical hormones with a emphasis in breast cancer PREVENTION. In the 10 years I have been doing bio-identical hormones (balancing estrogen with progesterone ) ,(not progestin which is synthetic), I have not had to give one breast cancer diagnosis. When I did the old popular prempro/premarin, I gave at least 5 dx. a year. Along with balancing hormones, I advocate at least 5000 -7000 IU of Vit D 3, 2-3 Gms. of fish oil (good grade), the regular daily use of progesterone, and DIM (100mg 2-3x daily). DIM can be bought at a health food store. DIM takes the inflammation from the breast tissue as your cruciferous vegetables do. It also , along with Progesterone helps with breast pain (which is a sign of estrogen dominence). I agree, that Dr. Lee had it right and he will always be missed by many of us. I am also grateful for wonderful people like Virginia who keeps all this good information coming out and Dr. Zava who does a lot of reasearch. I live in Alaska and perhaps I can get them to come up sometime for a visit. Thank You, Ann Carter ANP

  4. shelley kramer   November 20, 2011 at 11:36 am

    This is a great article for every women to read. Dr. Lee was a fabulous historian on Hormone imbalances which can cause all sorts of health issues.
    Remembering to check the ingredients in the products you use on your body and in your home and avoid controversial, questionable and known carcinogens in your daily used products, like cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant.

  5. Marie   November 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I just want to let others know that balancing hormones is spot on for breast cancer cure. Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with stage 1 of estrogen/progesterone breast cancer in right breast. My tumor size was 1.2 cm. The treatment suggested was lumpectomy, radiation and possible tamoxifen use. I decided not to do any of those options. I radically changed my diet (veg juicing, Budwig protocol and vegetarianism for 2 years), used proteolytic enzymes, vit D and flaxseed/omega oils. I did not use mammograms but thermograms for follow ups. I just had my recent thermogram in October. All signs are clear and diagnosis read “low risk” for recurrence! Previous results were moderate risk and they wished to see me quarterly if not every six months. I will continue with yearly thermograms and cancer diet of organic foods with juicing. But most important, I started bioidentical hormones one year ago. I have finally found balance again! I believe this is the reason for the reduction of symptoms in the last thermogram. My body is balanced hormonally (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone).

  6. pat noe   November 20, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    What about those of us that have already had radiation? Any suggestions on results
    of bioidentical or anyone have experience what to do if this is the case?

  7. Jeff Bell   November 20, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    My own experience has led me to follow the recommendations of Dr. John Lee for years. My own early-stage prostate cancer was cured in about 3 months, primarily by balancing my hormones, based on saliva testing and the careful use of bio-identical hormone supplementation. I declined all the strong recommendations that the urologist tried so hard to conivnce me to follow.

    And in my pracitce I have shared this strategy with many men and women with great results.

    I would like to add that I think it a mistake to rely much on mammograms. There is too much evidence at this point that the radiation causes too much harm and that it is just a accurate if not more so, and a lot safer to rely on thermography. Of course, this will be an uphill battle because of the huge amounts of money already tied up in amammography equipment, training, promotion, etc. But if I were a woman I would insist on it. Health needs to trump money, and we all need to push to make this happen.

  8. Virginia Hopkins   November 20, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Jeff – I’m with you on the thermography. The problem is that it’s almost completely unregulated — almost anyone can do it and it’s difficult to figure out who knows what they’re doing.

  9. Harald   November 21, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    ALL breast cancers will potentially heal themselves, if only the medical establishment will recognize Dr. Hamer’s discoveries and research.
    Ductal breast cancer is caused by a separation conflict shock.
    Once resolved, the cancer will heal.
    Glandular breast cancer is caused by a worry conflict.
    Once resolved, the cancer will heal.
    NO chemo, No radiation, No drugs and NO surgery is required.

  10. nancy smith   November 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm


    Do you have a practice where you help people

  11. Pingback: Do Some Breast Cancers Go Away On Their Own? From Virginia Hopkins Health Watch

  12. Dr.Christa Nadjafi-Triebsch   January 29, 2012 at 8:27 am

    The following publications from Australia indicated that more patients survive with HRT after lumpectomy of a breast-cancer in situ.

    1. John A. Eden, Trudy Bush, Swaran Nand and Barry G.Wren:
    A Case-Control Study of Combined Continous Estrogen-Progestin Replacement Therapy
    among Women with a Personal History of Breast Cancer.
    Menopause: The Journal of the Northh American Menopause Society Vol. 2,No. 2, pp 67-72,

    2. Durma EM, Wren BG, Heller GZ, Leader LR, Sjoblom P, Eden JA:
    Hormone replacement therapy after diagnosis of breast cancer: cancer recurrence and mortality.
    Med. J. Aust. 2002 Oct 7; 177 (7): 347-51

    I suggest however, only human-identical molecules like 17-beta- Estradoiol as patch or gel in ordinary doses and microniced progesterone orally or transdermally in high doses.

    In the WHI-Study the breast cancers appearing in patients was due to receiving 0.625 mg Premarin and only the ridicolous low dose of 2.5mg MPA, which was simply too low in order to oppose the profilerating effect of estrogens. Low dose of progesterone support the development of breast cancer if already underway. It needs high doses of progesterone to be effective to keep estrogens under control and allow apoptoses of old cells to be eliminated.

    Dr. Christa Nadjafi-Triebsch

  13. Lynn G.   October 16, 2012 at 6:39 am

    I am 63, diagnosed with breast cancer stage 1 on 2/15/2012; invasive ductal carcinoma in situ w/associated microcalcifications,1.1cm, estrogen/progesterone positive, no HER2, clear margins/lymph nodes. I had a lumpectomy and interoperative radiation (of which BC/BS of IL is denying thirty-thousand dollars of radiation treatment-saying it wasn’t medically necessary and not part of the standard 6-week RAD therapy!!). I am wondering about progesterone–I had been on prescription progesterone cream since 10/2005. I stopped the progesterone in April 2012. I recently found out I had been on a very high dose and September 2012 salvia testing showed “Progesterone (saliva) 1549, Ratio: Pg/E2 (saliva) 1936.” My doctor cannot understand why the current level is so high since I stopped progesterone in April (It was 14567 & 10405 in 2006.) Estradiol is 0.8 (1.4 in 2006). I’m wondering if being on mega doses of progesterone could have had anything to do with developing breast cancer?

  14. Lynn G.   October 16, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Also, regarding breast thermography. I am scheduled for by breast cancer follow-up mammogram for November 2012. As much as I DO NOT want to do it (additional radiation and pancaking of the breasts) my oncologist insists and “does not believe in thermography.” I would certainly opt for thermography, however, medical insurance does not cover it and I cannot afford to pay for it. So, I’m stuck with the mammogram–I can’t imagine how it’s going to hurt the breast I had surgery on with the hard lumps that are now in there!

  15. Jill O   March 12, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    I am 48 and have had stage 1 invasive DCIS HER2 estrogen positive and I opted to have surgery and have the lump removed. It was 1.2CM. I opted for no treatment after. It has been over a year and I just found 3 more small lumps. I am working with a holistic practitioner and am on a very strict diet and supplement treatment using progesterone cream. I am wondering if I should just wait and see if this will work itself out and go away or if I should get surgery again with radiation etc. Any thoughts.