MONDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- For women past menopause who
have had breast cancer, a higher intake of soy may help reduce the
risk of the disease's recurrence, a new study of Chinese women
The same link was not found in premenopausal women with breast
cancer, whatever their soy intake, the study authors said.
The study, while called intriguing by U.S. experts, was not
large and included only women with breast cancer receiving care in
China. It's not known if the results would apply to other groups of
women, said Marji McCullough, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer
"Chinese women may have been likely to have a lifelong high consumption of soy," she said. "We don't know whether starting on a diet high in soy after a breast cancer diagnosis would have the same effect as eating a lifelong diet high in soy."
For the study, Dr. Qingyuan Zhang of the Cancer Hospital of
Harbin Medical University in Harbin, China, evaluated 524 women who
had undergone breast cancer surgery between August 2002 and July
2003. They were receiving endocrine therapy such as anastrozole
(Arimidex) or tamoxifen to reduce cancer recurrence risk.
The researchers measured the women's dietary intake of soy
isoflavones at the start of the study, and then followed them for
about five years to see if breast cancer recurred.
For the premenopausal women, soy had no apparent effect on the
risk of subsequent breast cancer.
But postmenopausal women with the highest intake of soy -- more
than 42.3 milligrams of soy isoflavones a day -- had a 33 percent
reduced risk of cancer recurrence. For patients receiving
anastrozole and whose breast cancer was estrogen receptor-positive
and progesterone receptor-positive, the risk reduction link was
The study findings were published Oct. 18 in
CMAJ(the Canadian Medical Association Journal).
A serving of soy milk has about 30 or 40 milligrams of
But Zhang cautioned that larger studies with women from many
medical centers are needed before scientists can say that soy may
help reduce the risk of breast cancer's return.
McCullough agreed. "It's still possible that other lifestyle
differences in women in China who were eating less soy" might
explain their higher likelihood of getting breast cancer again, she
There have been concerns about the effect of soy consumption on
women with estrogen receptor-positive and progesterone
receptor-positive breast cancer because soy isoflavones are similar
to estrogen in chemical structure, and because tumor growth is
dependent on estrogen, the study authors said in a news
Dr. Joanne Mortimer, director of the women's cancers programs at
the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif.,
said some doctors tell women to avoid soy, concerned that too much
might be hazardous. "I think this is yet another study that
confirms that soy products do not cause an increased risk of breast
cancer or even recurrence," she said.
But, it's not a reason to go overboard on soy, Mortimer said. "I
wouldn't tell people they should eat a lot of soy," she said.
Rather, "they should eat a healthy diet and if they eat soy, this
study suggests there is not harm in it."
According to current American Cancer Society guidelines, which
are under review, up to three servings a day of soy foods is
considered safe, McCullough said. But women are advised to avoid
the high soy dose found in more concentrated sources such as soy
powders and isoflavone supplements, she said.
To learn more about soy, visit the
American Cancer Society.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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