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Soy foods associated with small reduction in risk of breast cancer

Washington, D.C. − Because some studies have suggested that soy contains chemicals that may help ward off breast cancer, increasing numbers of women are using soy supplements as a potential tumor preventive. Although a new meta-analysis of all available epidemiologic studies finds that soy intake may be associated with a small reduction in the risk of breast cancer, there are a number of inconsistencies and limitations in the studies examined. These limitations preclude a recommendation for women to take soy or soy supplements as a breast cancer preventive, say scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The research teams findings appear in the April 5 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

This conclusion may come as a surprise to many women who have come to depend on soy supplements to limit their risk of either developing breast cancer, or reducing breast cancer recurrence, says Robert Clarke, Ph.D., D.Sc., a professor at Georgetowns Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Soy supplements contain high levels of isoflavones, such as genistein, that have estrogenic properties, while in soy foods isoflavones are just a part of the package. Estrogens make the breast tumor cells grow, says co-author Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, Ph.D., a professor of oncology whose laboratory at Lombardi has long studied the role of food-based estrogens in cancer prevention. We found that soy food intake was associated with a reduced breast cancer risk. However, we have no idea what soy supplements might do, she adds

After research more than a decade ago showed that soy could play a role in decreasing LDL (known as the bad cholesterol) levels in humans, U.S. sales of soy-based food, drinks and supplements increased. U.S. sales of soy-based food and drinks were $3.9 billion in 2003, but sales have slowed in recent years, according to the Soyfoods Association of North America, an association funded
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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wastava@jhmi.edu
410-955-1287
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
4-Apr-2006


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