More about Dr. John Lee

by Virginia Hopkins

John R. Lee, M.D. was internationally acknowledged as a pioneer and expert in the study and use of the hormone progesterone, and on the subject of hormone replacement therapy for women. Dr. Lee used transdermal progesterone extensively in his clinical practice for nearly a decade, doing research which showed that it can reverse osteoporosis. Dr. Lee also famously coined the term “estrogen dominance,” meaning a relative lack of progesterone compared to estrogen, which causes a list of symptoms familiar to millions of women.

Dr. John Lee had a distinguished medical career, including graduating from Harvard and the University of Minnesota Medical School. After Dr. Lee retired from a 30-year family practice in Northern California he began writing and traveling around the world speaking to doctors, scientists and lay people about progesterone. Dr. Lee also taught a very popular course on “Optimal Health,” at the College of Marin for 15 years, for which he wrote the book Optimal Health Guidelines. Dr. Lee's second self-published book, written for doctors, was Natural Progesterone: The Multiple Roles of a Remarkable Hormone. Dr. John Lee then teamed up with Virginia Hopkins and others to write the best-selling books:

WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY NOT TELL YOU ABOUT MENOPAUSE: The Breakthrough Book on Natural Progesterone (Warner Books, 1996) by John R. Lee, M.D. and Virginia Hopkins

WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY NOT TELL YOU ABOUT PREMENOPAUSE: Balance Your Hormones and Your Life from Thirty to Fifty (Warner Books, 1999)by Dr. John Lee and Virginia Hopkins

WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY NOT TELL YOU ABOUT BREAST CANCER: How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life, (Warner Books, 2002) by Dr. John Lee, Dr. David Zava and Virginia Hopkins

and was editor of the John R. Lee, M.D. Medical Letter.


John R. Lee, M.D. passed away unexpectedly on Friday October 17th, 2003, of
a heart attack. Dr. John Lee was known by millions of people as the doctor who pioneered
the use of transdermal progesterone cream and bio-identical hormones, and who
had the courage to stand up against the medical establishment’s dangerous and
misguided HRT (hormone replacement therapy) treatments.

Dr. Lee kept a full schedule, giving talks and teaching worldwide, writing his best-selling books and monthly newsletters. Dr. John Lee was gratified by the thousands of women who wrote and called to tell him how dramatically their health had improved when they followed his recommendations, and by the hundreds of clinicians and researchers he corresponded with who had integrated his work into their practices and research with great success. Dr. Lee was thankful that his analysis of the problems with conventional HRT were finally validated by the medical establishment during his lifetime.

The night Dr. John Lee died he had dinner with a group of friends and colleagues—-he was hale, hearty, telling jokes and stories, and ready to give a talk to a group of compounding pharmacists the next day. Dr. Lee had recently returned from a two-week speaking tour in Europe, and the day before had completed corrections on the final manuscript for the major update and revision of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause (now on bookshelves).

Most of the men on Dr. Lee’s father’s side of the family (including his father, who was also an M.D.) died of heart attacks before they were 60. Dr. Lee had some symptoms of heart problems in his fifties, and that was part of his inspiration to search for the keys to optimal health, which he shared with so many people in his college classes and books. A few months before Dr. Lee's death he wondered out loud whether he had been given an extra 20 years so that he could bring the message of natural hormone balance to so many people.

Dr. John Lee’s friends and colleagues will carry on his legacy, as will the millions of others whose lives he touched over the years. We know that many of you will write, asking What can we do? The most meaningful way to remember John R. Lee, M.D. and carry on his work is to educate others, one-to-one, and give them the gift of optimal health, as he gave us.


John R. Lee, M.D. was a family doctor in Northern California when, in the early 1970s, he began seeing a lot of menopausal women with health complaints who weren't able to use estrogen because of a high cancer risk, heart disease, or diabetes for example. About that time Dr. Lee attended a lecture by Raymond Peat, Ph.D. who claimed that estrogen was the wrong hormone to be giving menopausal women, and that what they really needed was progesterone. Dr. Lee took a list of Dr. Peat's references and checked them out, and sure enough, it looked like Dr. Peat was right.


Dr. Lee began telling his menopausal patients to try using a progesterone
cream called Pro-Gest and to his amazement they were delighted with the
results. They reported relief from menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes,
night sweats and insomnia, and they also reported relief from a wide array
of other symptoms as diverse as dry eyes, bloating, irritability, gall
bladder problems, osteoporosis pain, hair loss, and lumpy or sore breasts,
for example. As a result of this unanimously positive feedback, Dr. Lee
began to collect detailed data on these patients, and also began to research
progesterone more in-depth, gathering studies from his local medical library,
and communicating with scientists around the world to discuss their work.
Dr. Lee realized that progesterone probably had a positive effect on bone health
and began to get bone density tests for his patients on progesterone. Within
a few years he realized that these women were gaining significant bone
density – particularly those with the worst bone density to begin with.


Dr. Lee was so convinced that his clinical experience with progesterone could
have a major positive impact on the health of menopausal women, that he
retired from his family practice and devoted all of his time to writing
about natural progesterone and giving talks about it. Dr. Lee self-published
a book for doctors called: Natural Progesterone: The Multiple Roles of a Remarkable Hormone and
sold it out of his garage, and soon was engaged in a voluminous correspondence
with hundreds of women, doctors and scientists from around the world. Dr. Lee
also self-published a book called Optimal Health Guidelines,
a general guide to good health written for the class he taught at College
of Marin for 15 years.


A few years later a medical writer named Virginia Hopkins who
was suffering herself from early menopausal symptoms came across Dr. John Lee's book
and called him to say, “You need to get this information out to the millions of women who are suffering from these symptoms, how about if we do a book together?” Dr.
Lee agreed to the plan, and his second book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause (Warner
Books) was published in 1996. This book is a “translation” of the medical language in the first book, and expands significantly on the original information. Sales of the “Menopause” book were better than anyone at Warner ever dreamed, and by the fall of 1998 nearly half a million books had been sold, almost entirely by word-of-mouth and through progesterone cream manufacturers who felt it was important to educate their customers about why they were using the cream, and how to use it. The “Menopause” book
has the lowest return rate of any book at Warner, and sales continue to steadily


Meanwhile, a progesterone cream industry
was springing up, and soon there were dozens of companies selling progesterone
cream. It literally became a multi-million dollar industry within a few years.
Why? Because progesterone cream really works to alleviate the symptoms of
estrogen dominance and menopausal symptoms in general, and conventional medicine
has failed to address these concerns in a safe, effective manner. Women have
intuitively known for decades that they were being mistreated by the medical
profession when it came to hormone replacement therapy and have enthusiastically
embraced this intuitively obvious and safe solution. Again, the bottom line
is that for most women, it works very well and used as directed it is extremely
safe. Occasionally there is a flurry of articles claiming that progesterone
is not safe, but the research that these claims are based on has always been
about the synthetic progestins, not on natural progesterone. (For a detailed
explanation of the difference between natural progesterone and synthetic
progestins, read Dr. John Lee's What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause.)


As Dr. John Lee traveled around the world giving talks and attending conferences,
he soon discovered that at least half of his audience and maybe more was
pre-menopausal ˆ women from their mid-thirties to their late forties.
These women were suffering from a long list of symptoms, including PMS, fibroids,
fibrocystic breasts, weight gain, fatigue, endometriosis, irregular or heavy
periods, infertility, and miscarriage, which they intuitively knew were due
to hormonal imbalance. When they tried progesterone cream they found that
it worked wonderfully well to alleviate their symptoms, and Dr. Lee began
to collect stacks of mail from women who had avoided hysterectomy, lost weight,
had fibroids shrink, found relief from PMS, and had finally been able to
conceive after years of trying. This experience led to writing the book What
Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause: Balance Your Hormones and
Your Life from Thirty to Fifty (Warner),
published in January 1999.


Around the time the “Premenopause” book was finished, Dr. Lee and Virginia
started a newsletter together, The John R. Lee,
M.D. Medical Letter,
designed to keep women up-to-date on hormone research, assess the latest
media reports about hormones, and generally offer down-to-earth, practical
and commonsense approaches to keeping hormones in balance and achieving optimal
health. The newsletter also features interviews with clinicians and scientists
who specialize in progesterone research and/or treatment, or who have a unique
point of view on some aspect of health that could be helpful to readers.
Another goal of the newsletter was to give women resources,
including educational material, recommended
reading, scientific
references and
access to natural progesterone cream.

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