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Soy & Breast Cancer Survivors

 Categories of Q&A
Genetics & Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer in Men
Signs & Symptoms
Breast Cancer Screening
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Soy & Breast Cancer Survivors  

I am a breast cancer survivor. Would my eating soy foods be helpful or harmful?

Consumption of soy foods by breast cancer survivors 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.

Several studies have shown beneficial effects of many years of consuming traditional soy foods (such as tofu) on womenís risk of developing breast cancer. On the other hand, 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.

Some survivors have a history of estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer. Dietary consumption of high amounts of estrogen-like substances would not be beneficial for such breast cancer survivors.

If you are a breast cancer survivor, be informed about soy by reading extensively on the topic. Importantly, consult your oncologist and integrative medical physician for guidance on whether or not eating any soy foods is appropriate for you.

If your physicians approve of your eating any soy foods, restrict your consumption of soy foods to the recommendation by the American Cancer Society (ACS) for breast cancer survivors: no more than a moderate amount of soy foods in the diet.[1] For example, you can consider adding soy milk to cereal, and tofu to stir-fries and pastas. According to the ACS, breast cancer survivors should not purposely eat very high levels of soy products.


1. B. Quinn. Making the right choices to reduce breast cancer risk. Knight Ridder News Service. 11/28/05. Accessed at www.twincities.com.

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