Why breast cancer survivors should eat soy

December 15, 2009
Volume 06    |   Issue 51

There’s been a huge controversy surrounding the safety of soy for women who have had breast cancer. Especially if the cancer was estrogen-receptor positive. The number one reason for this avoidance is the fact that this food contains plant estrogens. Women who have had estrogen-positive breast cancer shouldn’t go ahead and eat foods high in estrogens, should they?

For years, the answer to that question was “no.” But now a new observational study appearing in the December 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association says “Yes!” Women who have had breast cancer — even when it was estrogen-positive — should, indeed, eat soy.

This was a large four-year study based on data from over 5,000 breast cancer survivors in China. It found that the more soy protein a woman ate — up to 11 grams a day — the lower her risk of death or a recurrence compared with women who ate the least amount. There were no additional benefits from eating more than 11 grams of soy protein. Approximately four ounces of tofu or about a cup of soy milk contain this amount.

This same beneficial association applied to women with either estrogen-receptor positive or negative breast cancer. And it was present equally in women who used or didn’t use tamoxifen.

How can an estrogenic food like soy be protective? It’s simple. When plant estrogens occupy a receptor site, there’s no room in that site for dangerous estrogens — like those found in the environment — to occupy. I’ve talked about the safety of soy and breast cancer before in my monthly newsletter. Subscribers can read these articles on my website at no charge. If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up here. You’ll find more reasons there to include soy in your diet on a regular basis.

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Bottom line: Soy is a wonderful food for everyone. And when it comes to breast cancer, it could even save your life!

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


JAMA. 2009;302[22]:2437-2443.

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