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Soy products in the management of breast cancer

Magee, Pamela J.a; Rowland, Ianb

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care: November 2012 - Volume 15 - Issue 6 - p 586–591
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328359156f
FUNCTIONAL FOODS AND DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: Edited by Nathalie M. Delzenne and Gerard E. Mullin

Purpose of review Meta-analyses of epidemiological studies of soy consumption and breast cancer risk have demonstrated modest protective effects, usually attributed to isoflavones. Concern has been expressed, however, that the estrogenic activity of isoflavones may have adverse effects on breast cancer recurrence.

Recent findings The review covers epidemiological studies that have investigated the impact of soy consumption in breast cancer patients on recurrence and mortality. There are preliminary data to suggest that soy has differential effects on recurrence in human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 positive and human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 negative tumours. Recent studies on mechanisms of action of soy in breast cancer provide insights into epigenetic effects and the interaction of isoflavones with IGF-1 and with a number of polymorphisms of genes associated with breast cancer risk such as MDM2 and CYP1B1.

Summary Overall, these studies indicate that soy foods consumed at levels comparable to those in Asian populations have no detrimental effects on risk of breast cancer recurrence and in some cases significantly reduce the risk. Importantly, soy does not appear to interfere with tamoxifen or anastrozole therapy. Recent research suggests that women who are at increased risk of breast cancer due to polymorphisms in genes associated with the disease may especially benefit from high soy isoflavone intake.

aNorthern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine

bDepartment of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, UK

Correspondence to Ian Rowland, Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, PO Box 226, Whiteknights, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, UK. Tel: +44 118 3788703; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.