LOS ANGELES -- Researchers at the Center for Women's Health at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center are launching a clinical trial to assess whether eating certain plant compounds can have positive effects on the lining of the uterus. These plant compounds, called "isoflavones," are found in particularly high amounts in clover and soybeans. Isoflavones are also known as "phytoestrogens" because they have been found to have a variety of mild hormonal actions within the human body.
Georgina Hale, M.D., a visiting internist from Australia doing post-doctoral clinical research at Cedars-Sinai, said that this is the first study of its kind specifically directed at the effects of isoflavones on the human endometrium.
Because the normal endometrium is constantly changing and is highly responsive to hormonal fluctuations, it provides an excellent environment in which to detect the impact of isoflavones, said Dr. Hale. During the normal menstrual cycle, the endometrium grows thicker as its cells multiply. These cells are then shed during menstruation, after which the process begins again.
Estrogen, one of the hormones produced by the body, is primarily responsible for directing endometrial cells to multiply or proliferate. While proliferation is necessary during the "build-up" phase of the endometrium's cycle, estrogen's proliferative effects need to be constrained by other hormones, such as progesterone. If estrogen stimulation continues unchecked, endometrial hyperplasia can result. This condition is a known risk factor for the later development of endometrial cancer.
There is evidence that phytoestrogens in the diet may help counteract the
proliferative effects of estrogen. "In Asia, where there is a high dietary
phytoestrogen intake, there is also a low incidence of endometrial cancer," said
Dr. Hale. "Asian women have an endometrial cancer rate as low as one in 100,000
but women in the United States have
Contact: Sandra Van
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center