Consumption of soy foods by women at high risk for breast cancer remains a topic of debate in the medical community. Soybeans and certain other plant foods (such as whole grains, seeds, fruits) are rich in isoflavones, a plant chemical in the class known as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are natural chemicals that can mimic some of the effects of estrogen in the body.
Anecdotal evidence regarding the low incidence of breast cancer among Asian women, whose diets are rich in soy-based foods suggests there may be a favorable connection for many women.
The majority of studies suggest that, starting at an early age, many years of consuming soy foods such as tofu and other foods rich in phytoestrogens decreases a womanís risk of developing breast cancer. Soy milk can be added to cereal, and tofu can be added to stir-fries and pastas.
Eating highly-processed soy foods appears to provide less protection, however. Furthermore, a small number of studies have suggested that susceptible women who consume high levels of purified soy protein and/or foods containing high amounts of isoflavones may have an increased risk of breast cancer. Therefore, phytoestrogens have received a great deal of negative press recently.
If you are a woman at high risk of breast cancer, a breast cancer patient undergoing treatment, or a breast cancer survivor, restrict your consumption of soy foods to no more than a moderate amount in your diet. Be informed about soy by reading extensively. Importantly, consult your oncologist and integrative medical physician for guidance on whether eating any soy foods is appropriate for you.