Virginia Hopkins Health Watch – Vol 3, Issue 8

Natural Hormone
& Nutrition News,
Drug Watch and More…




Five Favorite Fall Foods
How Much Vitamin D to Take?
Curaderm Skin Cancer Treatment
Cancer Treatment Info
Dear Pharmacist
Environmental Working Group
Humongous Progesterone Paper from France



There’s an entire school of food thought which says it’s healthier to eat foods that are in season where we live. I don’t know of any research to back this up, but as an overall approach it feels right and there’s a certain poetry to the concept. In Chinese medicine we’re encouraged to eat warming foods during the change of season from summer to fall. This is said to help the body make the transition and reduce the chances of getting a cold or flu. Makes sense to me! Eating warming local foods in season could also encourage us to visit the local farmer’s market, which in the fall is a cornucopia of pumpkins, fresh apples, varieties of winter squash, and late season root vegetables such as carrots and turnips.

I’m about to share my favorite fall foods, but let us not forget hot tea of all kinds for its wonderful warming properties. Chamomile and licorice root teas are especially warming and soothing. If you do feel a cold or flu coming on, remember the Chinese medicine Yin Chiao – it’s a good remedy to have on hand in the cupboard.

Warming Foods Help us Through the Change of Season

There's a good chance that Halloween and all the candy that goes with it helps usher in flu season. Excess sugar depletes nutrients and weakens the immune system, opening the door to the flu bugs of the year. Creating delicious, nutritious meals from simple, hearty fall produce will bring us into flu season well nourished and much better able to fight off viruses.

Baked squash is an easy, tasty and warming fall food. Just cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, put some butter in the middle and stick it the over at 350 for an hour or so, until the flesh is tender. Some people like to add a sweetener such as brown sugar or maple syrup, or you can cut up apples or raisins (or both) and put them in the middle. I like the Kabocha or Buttercup squash, which has dark orange flesh and a nutty flavor.

There’s nothing quite like a fresh, locally grown apple. I grew up in New England where fall meant crisp, deep blue sky days, riotous tree colors of orange, red and yellow, and the smell of burning leaves in the air. My family would pile in the car every September and head for the local apple orchard. We would get a bushel or two of MacIntosh apples and few gallons of cider. Baked apples are a sweet, warm treat for a chilly fall afternoon or evening.

Baked vegetables are easy and delicious and fall is the time for fresh, local root vegetables which are the best for baking. These include potatoes, yams, carrots, beets, onions and turnips. Just cut into pieces about the same size so they’ll cook at the same rate, toss with some olive oil, sprinkle with your favorite herbs and spices and cook at 300 to 350 for 30 to 45 minutes, turning halfway through.

Beef or lamb stew is a simple, nourishing and warming fall food. Again, the root vegetables are good in the fall and sweeten the pot. Try adding some fresh herbs.

Miso soup is one of the warming fall foods of choice in Asia. Eat it with a hearty chunk of brown bread, or add tofu and seaweed and you have a complete meal.


It’s the latest, greatest vitamin, but what’s the safe and effective dose?

New research on vitamin D is showing that most Americans are deficient, and that a lack of it may be contributing to breast cancer, colon cancer, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, just to name a few. In fact, if you work inside and use sunscreen you’re probably vitamin D deficient. This applies even more if you live in a northern latitude.

You can get some vitamin D from food, and of course you can take supplements, but the very best, safest and most reliable source of vitamin D is sunshine. No doubt about it. But haven’t we been warned away from sun exposure? Won’t it cause cancer and wrinkles? Well, yes and no. Our national hysteria about sun damage is grossly exaggerated. It’s one of those myths that has been repeated so much that most everyone assumes it to be true. The sunscreen industry has done a great job selling its wares by scaring us about sun exposure. However, if you dig down and do some research it’s a different story.

Yes, if you repeatedly get sunburned you somewhat increase your risk of non-melanoma skin cancer. The fairer the skin, the more easily it is sunburned. By far the biggest risk for skin cancer is simply having fair skin—with or without sunscreen. There’s really no substantial evidence that using sunscreen protects you from skin cancer. There is a weak association between melanoma and sunburn, but there is no evidence that using sunscreen prevents melanoma. There is some research indicating that exposure to the sun as a child reduces the risk of melanoma.

The take-home lesson is to avoid getting sunburned. One way to avoid sunburn is to tan gradually. Start with five minutes a day in the sun and work up slowly. Being tan a lot will probably cause you to wrinkle sooner, but it’s unlikely to substantially increase your risk of skin cancer. If you have fair skin, wear protective clothing when you’re in the sun.

As I mentioned above, there is increasing evidence that avoiding the sun and becoming vitamin D deficient can increase your risk of many cancers as well as osteoporosis and autoimmune diseases. It just takes 15 to 20 minutes in the mid-day sun, three to four times a week, to provide you with adequate vitamin D. Now if you’re pale as a ghost, don’t go right out and sit in the sun for 20 minutes or you’ll get burned. Work up to it.

For those who live in colder, cloudier, northern climates or who just can’t get out in the sun enough, it’s probably a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 400 IU is clearly too low. It was put in place before Americans became sun-phobic. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and as such can accumulate in the body and become toxic, so there has been justifiable concern about taking too much. Now that we have more research, it seems clear that we can safely take 2,000 IU daily in the D3 cholecalciferol form to maintain our vitamin D levels. If your doctor wants to ratchet up your vitamin D levels quickly with large doses, be sure to test levels regularly. Some doctors will recommend 10,000 IU for a few months to get vitamin D levels back to normal.

A New Vitamin D Deficiency Test that can be Done at Home
Now you can test your vitamin D levels at home with a blood spot test and mail the results to a lab in a prepaid envelope. It's quick, easy, accurate and reasonably priced. It deficiencies in both vitamin D2 and D3 as a potential cause of health problems. This test can also be useful for those who are taking vitamin D supplements to ensure adequate levels and avoid excess.


Berwick M, Armstrong BK et al, “Sun exposure and mortality from melanoma,” J Natl Cancer Inst 2005; 97: 195–99.

Boscoe FP, Schymura MJ, “Solar ultraviolet-B exposure and cancer incidence and mortality in the United States, 1993-2002,” BMC Cancer 2006 Nov 10;6:264.

Dennis LK, Beane Freeman LE et al, “Sunscreen use and the risk for melanoma: a quantitative review,” Ann Intern Med
2003; 139: 966–78.

Ginanjar E, Sumariyono SS et al, “Vitamin d and autoimmune disease,” Acta Med Indones 2007 Oct-Dec;39(3):133-41.

Grant WB, “An estimate of premature cancer mortality in the U.S. due to inadequate doses of solar ultraviolet-B radiation,” Cancer 2002; 94: 1867–75.

Holick MF, “Sunlight “D”ilemma: risk of skin cancer or bone disease and muscle weakness,” Lancet 2001; 357: 4–6.

Lin J, Manson JE et al, “Intakes of calcium and vitamin D and breast cancer risk in women,” Arch Intern Med 2007 May 28;167(10):1050-9.

Robien K, Cutler GJ et al, “Vitamin D intake and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women: the Iowa Women's Health Study,” Cancer Causes Control 2007 Sep;18(7):775-82.

Solomon CC, White E et al “Melanoma and lifetime UV radiation,” Cancer Causes Control 2004 Nov;15(9):893-902.

Thieden E, Philipsen PA et al, “Sunscreen use related to UV exposure, age, sex, and occupation based on personal dosimeter readings and sun-exposure behavior diaries,” Arch Dermatol 2005; 141: 967–73.


Where to find skin cancer treatment, reliable cancer info, a guide to baby boomer ailments, negotiating the supermarket, and help staying clean and green.

Following are a few resources I want to share with you. I’m a big believer in networking and passing along good information at a grass roots level. I hope that you’ll pass these on if you find them useful, and also let me know if you have good resources to share. I don’t have any financial affiliation with any of these resources.

Curaderm BEC5 for Skin Cancers
Being fifty-something, an outdoorsy type, and of European ethnic extraction is almost a guaranty for getting skin cancers of various types. If this describes you, you're already familiar with those scaly, itchy little patches of skin that suddenly make their presence known on your formerly clear, youthful skin. I’m not talking about melanoma. I’m talking about the skin cancers that are completely harmless if you treat them but that can take your face off and maybe even kill you if you ignore them. If need be, your skin doctor can tell you what kind of skin cancer you have. You can have these skin cancers burned, frozen or cut off, but you risk scarring, especially if you’ve let them go too long.

Another common conventional medical remedy for skin cancer is a skin cream called Aldara (imiquimod), which—in my opinion—is a dangerous drug. If it gets into your blood stream (which it almost certainly will if using the cream creates an open wound, which it usually does), it can wreak havoc on the immune system. Here’s a website called the Aldara Commentaries with details about the harm Aldara can cause. It’s a bit of a funky site, but the information is thorough and can be saved and printed from a pdf file.

There is a better, safer way (in my opinion—I have to keep saying this so the Aldara folks won’t sue me) and it’s called BEC5. It’s a topical (skin) cream made from eggplant, and it only destroys cancer cells, not healthy cells. You have to put it on twice a day, for two weeks to three months, and keep it covered with a band-aid. This is a nuisance but in my experience it really works and it beats scarring or a wrecked immune system. Of course BEC5 can’t be sold in the U.S. because it’s natural and it works, but you can order it online at the website address above. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions.

The Moss Reports
If I was diagnosed with cancer, the first thing I would do is go to this website and download the Moss Report on it. For thirty years Ralph Moss, Ph.D. has been researching cancer and cancer treatments, and writing up his findings. He presents the current state of research and treatment on specific kinds of cancer in a thorough, detailed and yet comprehensible style that will save you days if not weeks of slogging through information on the internet. He also does phone consultations. Moss is not part of the cancer diagnosis and treatment industry. He’s not on the side of conventional or alternative treatment. He’s square in the middle of finding the best options available for each specific type of cancer. The Reports are pricey at $350, but if you have cancer, that may be the least expensive part of the journey.

Dear Pharmacist
Yes, Suzy Cohen, R.Ph. is a pharmacist, but she’s also a very entertaining character with an e-mail newsletter, a newspaper column and a new self-help book called the 24-Hour Pharmacist that covers just about every ailment you can think of—with humor. This book is a resource for the aging baby boomer who wants a guide to everything from shaving and snoring to hemorrhoids and drug interactions. You’ll find it on I especially enjoyed her latest column, “Drug Muggers,” so she allowed me to reprint it for your reading pleasure:

Environmental Working Group (EWG)
I’ve mentioned this site before, but mention it again because they’ve improved and expanded to include more useful information. EWG is simply one of the best resources anywhere, in any medium, for helping us find clean, natural products and avoiding the nasty ones. In addition to their consumer tools, they now have news and research sections, and best of all, action steps you can take to clean up the environment, starting with the one in your own home. Here where to find their useful list, 10 Pollution Solutions.


Heaven is 830 References

I’m well aware that I have a good contingent of biochemistry geeks among my readers, which is great because if I err they hasten to correct me. As a thank you for helping me be more accurate, I’d like to point out an amazing review paper on progesterone. It’s from France, was published in July 2007 in the journal Endocrine Reviews, and is titled, “Novel Perspectives for Progesterone in Hormone Replacement Therapy, with Special Reference to the Nervous System.” It’s 52 pages long and has 830 references (if you’re a biochemistry geek you’re flapping your hands with excitement right now).

And it gets better—here’s where you'll find the entire paper for free: Progesterone Paper

There won’t be much that’s new here for readers of books by Drs. Lee and Zava and myself, the John R. Lee, M.D. Medical Letter (much of which is published for free on this website), and the Virginia Hopkins Health Watch, but affirmation is nice. I’ve highlighted some of the best parts of the abstract below. This might also be a good paper to print out and bring to doubting doctors.

Abstract from the National Library of Medicine

Endocr Rev 2007 Jun;28(4):387-439. Epub 2007 Apr 12, “Novel perspectives for progesterone in hormone replacement therapy, with special reference to the nervous system,” Schumacher M, Guennoun R, Ghoumari A, Massaad C, Robert F, El-Etr M, Akwa Y, Rajkowski K, Baulieu EE.

INSERM UMR 788, 80, rue du Général Leclerc, 94276 Kremlin-Bicêtre, France.

The utility and safety of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy has recently been put into question by large clinical trials. Their outcome has been extensively commented upon, but discussions have mainly been limited to the effects of estrogens. In fact, progestagens are generally only considered with respect to their usefulness in preventing estrogen stimulation of uterine hyperplasia and malignancy. In addition, various risks have been attributed to progestagens and their omission from hormone replacement therapy has been considered, but this may underestimate their potential benefits and therapeutic promises. A major reason for the controversial reputation of progestagens is that they are generally considered as a single class. Moreover, the term progesterone is often used as a generic one for the different types of both natural and synthetic progestagens. This is not appropriate because natural progesterone has properties very distinct from the synthetic progestins. Within the nervous system, the neuroprotective and promyelinating effects of progesterone are promising, not only for preventing but also for reversing age-dependent changes and dysfunctions. There is indeed strong evidence that the aging nervous system remains at least to some extent sensitive to these beneficial effects of progesterone. The actions of progesterone in peripheral target tissues including breast, blood vessels, and bones are less well understood, but there is evidence for the beneficial effects of progesterone. The variety of signaling mechanisms of progesterone offers exciting possibilities for the development of more selective, efficient, and safe progestagens. The recognition that progesterone is synthesized by neurons and glial cells requires a reevaluation of hormonal aging.



Are You Overdue for A Hormone Level Test?
If you’re using bioidentical hormones it’s wise to test your levels at least once or twice a year. You can choose from a saliva hormone level test or Dr. Zava’s new capillary blood spot test. Recommendations come with results.


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