11/23/2009 - Articles

More evidence that soya foods reduce breast cancer

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


Soya foods are said to have certain health benefits. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women. But there is a big geographical impact on rates of breast cancer. Women in North America have a five times greater risk of developing breast cancer than women in Asia. Therefore, it’s likely that differences in diet might contribute to the risk of breast cancer.

Soya foods have been suggested, by previous research, as an important factor protecting Asian women from breast cancer. In a recent study, researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, report on how soya foods exert a protective effect against premenopausal breast cancer.

In the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, over 73,000 women filled in a food frequency questionnaire. They reported their intake in both adolescent and in adult life of foods like tofu, soya beans, soya drinks and other soya foods. Then the women were followed up for around seven years, during which time there were 592 new cases of breast cancer. Those whose soya food consumption was greater during adolescence had a 43% decreased risk of breast cancer. If they continued to use soya foods in their diet in adult life, the risk of breast cancer was reduced further to 59%.

Soya foods are easy to include in your diet. Meat substitutes like burgers and sausages often contain soya. Other soya foods include milk, desserts and spreads. The active ingredients are isoflavones, some of which are phytoestrogens. Some breast cancers are hormone-related, with estrogen playing an important part. Phytoestrogens can oppose natural estrogen which is why soya foods might exert a protective effect against breast cancer.


Lee SA et al Adolescent and adult soy food intake and breast cancer risk: results from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009;89:1920-1926


Created on: 11/23/2009
Reviewed on: 11/23/2009

Your rating: None Average: 1 (1 vote)