Breast Cancer and Soy: Is Soy Healthy Or Not?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Breast Cancer and Soy: Is Soy Healthy Or Not?

By Karen Kwan

Confused about whether soy is good or bad for you when it comes to breast cancer? You have reason to be confused – as there is no conclusive answer about its effect.

Here’s a brief rundown on what studies have shown:

Soy contains isoflavones – these are antiestrogenic pytoestrogens. These isoflavones battle (if you will) estrogen for receptors. This battle for receptors would seem to indicate that soy would be beneficial in reducing cancer risk, ie. Eat more soy and you’ll have more protection against breast cancer. In particular, soy may be helpful for women who are pre-menopausal – with their high levels of estrogen, the extra isoflavones would provide a boost of anticancer fighting properties.

But (you knew there was a but coming) other studies show that women with low levels of estrogen – women who are post-menopausal – who consume high concentrations of soy may then develop high levels of estrogen, increasing the risk of tumour development.

So, should you say yes to soy or not?
While the findings are still inconclusive*, many health professionals advise women taking hormone therapy or who have estrogen-receptor positive type of breast cancer steer clear of soy supplements. For everyone else, a diet with moderate (say one to three servings a day) is fine – but, of course, you should speak to your doctor about any concerns you have. Also, the benefits of soy appear to be obtained when through the food in one’s diet rather than through soy supplements.

*(And if you’re wondering why the findings are so unclear, according to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation of Canada, it’s difficult to research diet and specific foods given that we all eat a variety of foods every day—making it hard to pinpoint a certain food to a certain finding).

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