Have you ever heard of aromatase inhibitors? If you have heard of it, did you bother to find out what aromatase inhibitors are? It’s crucial to understand the basic terms that are aromatase and inhibitor. Aromatase is an enzyme that plays a significant role in converting androgens (sex hormones) into estrogens. Androgens are produced mainly by testes, ovaries, and adrenal gland. Aromatase enzyme is in the following tissues;
- Adipose tissue
- Blood vessels
It is important to note that aromatase is also in the tissue of:
- Uterine fibroids
- Breast cancer
- Endometrial cancer
An inhibitor, on the other hand, is a substance that is responsible for slowing down or hindering a chemical reaction or a process from taking place. What is aromatase inhibitor? An aromatase inhibitor is a compound that binds or blocks an aromatase enzyme and inhibits it from changing androgens for example testosterone into estrogen. But what are aromatase inhibitors (AIs)? They are a class of drugs responsible for lowering estrogen levels. In a nutshell, AIs are a type of a hormone therapy. Aromatase inhibitor drugs stop aromatase enzyme from converting other hormones into estrogen. However, aromatase inhibitor drugs can’t stop the ovaries from producing estrogen. They are only effective in lowering estrogen in women who have gone through menopause since their ovaries are not making estrogen. Taking AIs should be avoided during breastfeeding, while pregnant or if you are planning to become pregnant since they can damage the developing embryo.
- Femara (generic name is Letrozole)
It can be used by postmenopausal women during the early stage of cancer immediately after surgery to minimize chances of cancer coming back. It can be used by postmenopausal women with early stage breast cancer and have been on tamoxifen for five years. The drug has been available for use for over ten years
- Arimidex (generic name-Anastrozole)
The postmenopausal women diagnosed with early cancer after undergoing surgery or chemotherapy and radiation to lower chances of cancer coming back can use it. Also women with advanced cancer can use it. You take Arimidex pill once daily, and the doctor advises the patients on taking the pill at the same time daily. It is used for five years although the physician may prescribe a shorter or a longer period. You should avoid taking tamoxifen while taking Arimidex.
- Aromasin (generic name-Exemestane)
It is available for use by postmenopausal women in early stages of cancer after taking tamoxifen for 2 to 3 years to reduce the risk of cancer from reoccurring. Thus, you should stop taking tamoxifen once you start taking Aromasin. The pill is taken daily and at the same time.
To ensure aromatase inhibitor drugs are safe for you, ensure you disclose to your doctor if you have:
- Liver disease
- High cholesterol
- Taking tamoxifen or having consumed it in the past
- History of stroke
- Heart disease
- Circulation problem
From the above explanation, it is clear that you can take AIs for breast cancer treatment. Why is this possible? Some cancers like breast cancer depend on estrogen. In other words, the growth of breast cancer can be promoted by estrogen. Therefore, by preventing the conversion of estrogen and at the same time keeping the levels low, the growth of cancer is slowed or inhibited. To treat breast cancer AIs are mostly used. Aromatase inhibitors are used by postmenopausal women diagnosed with an early stage as well as metastatic breast cancer. After menopause, your ovaries can only produce a small of estrogen. AIs stop the body from producing estrogen; thus, tumors that are hormone receptor-positive aren’t fed by estrogen eventually die.
Aromatase inhibitors Vs Tamoxifen
Tamoxifen is a drug used in treating cancers. It does this by blocking action of estrogen. AIs and Tamoxifen are both hormone therapies. However, they work in different ways. AIs reduce estrogen in the body as explained earlier. The tumor can’t grow if the levels of estrogen are low. On the other hand, tamoxifen blocks estrogen. Estrogen is present in the normal levels, but the tumor can’t grow as the estrogen is already blocked. Aromatase inhibitors are most preferred than Tamoxifen because of the following:
- Increases the time before cancer reoccurs (if it comes back)
- Minimizes chances of cancer spreading to other parts of the body
- Lowers the risk of cancer developing in your other breast
Getting cancer treatment for you is a must; you want to do away with it completely and the chances of it coming back. At the same time, you need to avoid side effects that may lower the quality of your life. The following are probable AIs side effects that you may experience:
- Dizziness, drowsiness, feeling weak and tired
- Hot flashes
- Bone pain, muscle or joint pain
- Weight gain
- Memory problem
- Heart problems
- Bone thinning
Do men require AIs at any given time?
Yes they do, most men are bodybuilders. During excessive training to increase muscle strength and muscle growth, the body produces more testosterone. Some bodybuilders take steroids to increase muscle strength and growth. Usually, your body will naturally regulate your estrogen level to keep it in proportion with testosterone levels. Unfortunately, the body will convert some testosterone into estrogen regardless of testosterone being natural or synthetic. To keep your hormones balanced, the body signals the release of aromatase enzyme to convert your testosterone to estrogen. High levels of estrogen in men lead to gynecomastia and decrease in sex drive; this is where aromatase inhibitors for men come in. Also, bodybuilders should consider aromatase inhibitors to deal with gynecomastia. The following are AIs for male:
- Aromasin (Exemestane)
It binds to the aromatase enzyme permanently hence the bond is irreversible.
- Anastrozole (Arimidex)
As for the anastrozole, the bond on aromatase enzyme is reversible since it only blocks the aromatase enzyme.
- Letrozole (Femara)
It works just like anastrozole, though the bond is very powerful. Letrozole can crush the levels of estrogen quickly. A bodybuilder can use it to deal with gynecomastia or to drop the levels of estrogen quickly manner.
Uses in bodybuilding
If you are a man or a bodybuilder, opt to use aromatase inhibitors for steroids. Aromatase inhibitors supplements are also available for use. Look out for the following ingredients (the ingredients are mainly natural extracts from plants) in AIs supplements:
- Ursolic acid
- Red clover and genistein
- White bottom mushrooms
In conclusion, you have the knowledge of aromatase inhibitors and when to use them. Remember knowledge is power and be guided by the information above.