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. He 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. Lee had a distinguished medical career, including graduating from Harvard and the University of Minnesota Medical School. After he 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. His second self-published book, written for doctors, was Natural Progesterone: The Multiple Roles of a Remarkable Hormone. He 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)
WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY NOT TELL YOU ABOUT PREMENOPAUSE: Balance Your Hormones and Your Life from Thirty to Fifty (Warner Books, 1999)
WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY NOT TELL YOU ABOUT BREAST CANCER: How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life, (Warner Books, 2002)
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. 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.
He kept a full schedule, giving talks and teaching worldwide, writing his best-selling books and monthly newsletters. Dr. 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. 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. He 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 his 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. Lee s colleagues, family, and friends 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.
His family asks that in lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Progesterone Research Institute.MORE ABOUT DR. LEE'S REMARKABLE LIFE
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 he 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.
FOCUS ON PROGESTERONE
Dr. Lee began telling his menopausal patients to try using a progesterone cream, 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. He 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'S FIRST BOOKS
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. He 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. He 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.
WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY NOT TELL YOU ABOUT MENOPAUSE
A few years later a medical writer named Virginia Hopkins who was suffering herself from early menopausal symptoms came across Dr. 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 climb.
PROGESTERONE CREAM TAKES OFF
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 What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause.)
TALKING TO WOMEN FROM THIRTY TO FIFTY ABOUT HORMONE IMBALANCE
As Dr. 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), available in January 1999. For this effort, Dr. Lee and Virginia Hopkins teamed up with Jesse Hanley, M.D., a Malibu, CA-based physician with a family practice, who specializes in helping women balance their hormones naturally. Dr. Hanley brought a rich new dimension to this book of the psychological, spiritual and emotional aspects of the premenopause years, as well as her extensive experience in using herbs and nutritional supplements to achieve hormone balance.
THE JOHN R. LEE, M.D. MEDICAL LETTER
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 is to give women resources, including educational material, recommended reading, scientific references and access to natural progesterone cream.